KAMPALA – The Constitutional Court has in 4:1 majority decision quashed the orders of Justice Catherine Bamugemereire led land probe that led to the arrest and detention of city businessman Abid Alam.
The businessman had appeared before the commission as it probed into his acquisition of 10,000 acres of land in Mubende District.
Justice Bamugemereire then ordered for his arrest, which the businessman challenged before the Constitutional Court.
Now, justices Cheborion Barishaki, Alphonse Owiny-Dollo, Egonda Ntende and Kenneth Kakuru have ruled that the actions of the Commission violated his rights to a fair hearing, own land among other constitutional breaches.
Justice Christopher Izama Madrama differed with the panel.
City lawyer Fred Muwema who represented businessman Abid Alam (petitioner) filed the case in the Constitutional Court challenging Justice Bamugemereire’s actions of ordering for the arrest of the businessman when he had appeared before the probe.
“The acts of the land commission of inquiry in directing or ordering the arrest of the 1st petitioner (Abid Alam) on account of his violation of mediation settlement initiated and endorsed by the land commission, violated the plaintiff’s right to land, liberty and fair hearing,” Justice Barishaki said in his lead judgement read on Tuesday.
In his petition, the businessman had claimed that he is the proprietor of approximately 10,000 acres of land in Mubende district.
He added that he acquired the said land between 2001 and 2004 and had fully developed it with suitable infrastructure for commercial farming.
But after the appointment of the Commission of Inquiry into land matters in December 2016 by President Museveni, the same commission
conducted a public hearing on his land in 2027 which saw many complaints raised by ex-world war servise men, claiming to have interest on the same land.
“The commission of inquiry gave a directive for preservation of the status quo in regard to the 2nd petitioner’s land as it conducts a mediation between the warring parties,” Mr Abid stated in his petition
Adding:”On November 7, 2017, the commission of inquiry issued a warrant of arrest of the 1st petitioner (Mr Abid).
When the 1st petitioner appeared before the commission, he was arrested and detained at Wandegeya Police Station on the orders of the commission. He was detained from 11am to 11pm when he was released upon his undertaking not to interfer with the status quo of the 2nd petitioner’s land.”
The justices fault the commission for exercising judicial power by issuing orders preserving the status quo on Mr Abid’s land run by his Mityana Farm Group Enterprise Ltd, which were unconstitutional as they contravened Articles 2 (2)& 126 (1) of the constitution.
The Commission of Inquiry into Land Matters officially concluded its work on November 9, 2019 after close to three years of work and handed in their report to President Museveni in July 2020.
Led by Justice Catherine Bamugemereire, the seven-member Commission was set up in 2016 to look into the effectiveness of the law and processes of land acquisition, administration, management and registration in Uganda following increasing land conflicts.
However, as the Commission wound up, there were concerns that it had not done much to resolve the land wrangles that continue to cause loss of lives in the country.
The Commission registered 7,799 land complaints, referred 3,400 of these for mediation and handled 110 cases through public hearings.