The Observer (Kampala)

Uganda: Court Rules On Mulwana Land Dispute Today

High Court Judge Justice Night Tuhaise will decide today whether fallen entrepreneur James Mulwana irregularly sold land belonging to Namuli Ochieng, widow of influential politician Daudi Ochieng.

For Mulwana, the judgment comes almost two weeks after his death. At the time of his death, Mulwana had vehemently denied Ms Ochieng's accusations. The ruling was meant to be given yesterday but Ms Ochieng's lawyer Kavuma Kabenge asked court to first register Mulwana as a deceased person before giving its ruling.

"My lord, we need to enter the defendant (Mulwana) as dead before we proceed with the suit against surviving defendants," he said.

He said if that is not done, the verdict might not be binding to the heir and proprietors of Mulwana's estates especially if he loses the case. Kabenge separately told The Observer that having Mulwana formally recognized as the deceased by court would mean that his heir or any other person administering his estates would be legally responsible for any liabilities that could arise from the ruling.

A separate lawyer, who declined to be named, said that unlike in criminal proceedings, the next of kin and heir can inherit the liabilities of the deceased in civil matters. Mulwana's lawyer Peter Musoke was not in court yesterday. Justice Tuhaise, who herself said she "informally" knows that Mulwana died, said she will rule on Kabenga's request tomorrow morning before giving her judgment as well.

Background

In June 2012, Mulwana had appeared in court to give his defence. Namuli, 61, dragged Mulwana to court, accusing him of illegally acquiring ownership of her land on Block 243, plot 786 in Kitintale, Kampala. Court was shown land transfer documents Namuli had allegedly signed transferring ownership of her land to Mulwana, but she denied ever signing any transfer document. She, however, said she signed a blank form when Mulwana gave her money.

"I was moving out of his office after he had given me the money when he called me back and gave me a certain form to sign. It was blank," Namuli told court in March. She is seeking repossession of the land and a refund of the money Mulwana has collected from renting houses on the property since he took it over.

However, appearing before Justice Percy Night Tuhaise of the High court, Land division in June 2012, Mulwana, accused Namuli, with whom he was friends for more than four decades, of dishonesty. He said Namuli asked him, in December 2002, to buy her land (Block 243, plot 786 in Kitintale, Kampala) from Investment Masters Ltd, a money lending company that was selling the property to recover Shs 30m she had borrowed and failed to repay.

"She told me about the problems she was experiencing; that her property was going to be sold and she would have nowhere to stay," Mulwana told court. "She hoped that if I bought the land, she would be able to stay around for a while and that I would sell it and give her any money in excess of the Shs 30m [I would have paid for it]."

Until his demise, it was Mulwana's word against Ms Ochieng, but today court will have the final say.

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