Uganda: 25-Year-Old Land Case Finally Settled By Court

Mr Edward Musoloza had to wait for 25 years in order to get justice in courts of law.

The land dispute that had been in the High Court as the first court of instance (not gone onto appeal yet) is believed to be the oldest case in the Judiciary.

Justice Margaret Mutonyi of the High Court, who finally disposed of the dispute last Friday, could not hide her disappointment about delayed justice, revealing that the case was filed in 1995 before she even joined the Judiciary as a Grade One magistrate.

"This case had a protracted trial in the court system and may be the oldest case in the Judiciary as it was first filed in court by the plaintiff herein (Mr Musoloza)," Justice Mutonyi observed.

"This inordinate delay in disposing of this land matter is regrettable and should never happen in the judicial that is pro justice," she added

Justice Mutonyi explained that that the case file was mismanaged, adding it remained pending at the Kampala High Court for long until it was referred to Mukono High Court in 2017.

"This is a reflection of poor case management right from the time it was filed in 1995 as it was transferred from one court to another without informing the parties, especially the plaintiff (Mr Musoloza)," she said.

On July 21, 1995, Mr Musoloza sued Mr Geofrey Nganda, Mr Ephraim Kaweesa and Mr William Batibwe seeking recovery of his kibanja measuring about 25 acres from them.

The land in question is near Mabira forest in Buikwe District.

In his court documents, Mr Musoloza had contended that he had inherited the said land from his late father Eliezer Mukasa in 1995.

He added that after taking over the said land, the aforementioned persons, with the help of their father, Mr Eriabu Sempala, forcefully entered it and cut down his crops such as coffee, cocoa and bananas.

The ruling

But the defendants had denied the allegations, claiming to be the lawful owners of the disputed land.

But Justice Mutonyi in her judgment last Friday held that the three defendants, who later became two as one of them was struck off the court documents by way of consent, were not the rightful owners of the land in question and thus trespassers.

The judge declared Mr Musoloza the rightful owner of the land.

Further, the judge ordered the trespassers to pay general damages worth Shs50m to Mr Musoloza and Shs20m as profits plus costs of the suit.

The executive director of Legal Aid Service Providers Network, Dr Sylvia Namubiru Mukasa, said the Judiciary should use this case as a case study to inform them of the factors that delay justice.

"The case speaks to the numerous challenges when it comes to dispute resolution in courts of law, especially when it comes to land justice. This speaks about judicial officers who are transferred to another duty station without completing their cases, laxity in their supervision and corruption such as hiding of files," Dr Namubiru said yesterday.

Judiciary spokesperson Jameson Karemani said he needed to get the facts of the ruling before he would ably comment about it.

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