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Ministers, tycoons, judges named in grabbing departed Asians’ properties

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By Isaac Mufumba

Mr Ibrahim Kasozi had just got into his office at the Parliamentary Buildings when a minister made his way in.
The former Makindye East MP (FDC) was at the time the chairperson of the sub-committee of the Committee on Statutory Authorities and State Enterprises (Cosase) of the 10th Parliament. The sub-committee was formed to investigate the operations of the Departed Asians Property Custodian Board (DAPCB).
The minister was a man in a hurry, and did not even have the time to greet or exchange any pleasantries with Mr Kasozi.

“Mr chairman, people really know how to forge. The handwriting looks exactly like mine. The signature also looks like mine. It is as if they cut and pasted! The name is mine. The telephone and box numbers are also mine, but I do not own that property,” the minister said.
“Just go and write to us a short letter disassociating yourself from the said property,” Mr Kasozi told the minister.

By late April this year when the committee issued its 83-page report of investigations into how some of the properties for which government had compensated their former owners were repossessed by those who had been compensated, the minister’s letter had not yet arrived at Mr Kasozi’s desk.
The property that was the subject of discussion between the two politicians is one of the hundreds of properties and businesses formerly owned by Asians, which had been placed under the control of DAPCB, after former president Idi Amin declared “an economic war” and expelled Asians from Uganda. 

The properties were in 1982 transferred to the Ministry of Finance to either return them to their owners or sell them off under the provisions of the Expropriated Properties Act (EPA), 1982, but most of the properties estimated to be at least 10,000 in number, with 4,000 repossessed, are believed to have been acquired or fraudulently repossessed, thus depriving government of income that could have been generated from either rent or sale of the properties.

There are, for example, at least 100 properties for which repossession certificates were issued but not picked up, but the properties for which the certificates are still lying in the DAPCB, have since been taken over! 
But how did this happen?

EPA abused
The Act required claimants to the said properties to return and be physically present before a property could be returned to them, but some unscrupulous individuals found a way around that requirement.
“The requirement to physically return to Uganda under Section 9 of the EPA was mandatory. But the committee noted that some properties were repossessed and their certificates handed over to persons who never returned to Uganda contrary to the mandatory provision of the law,” the report read in part.

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During the parliamentary investigation, it was established that most of the properties were repossessed without the registered owners fulfilling the requirements under the EPA. At least 637 properties were repossessed and repossession certificates handed over even when the owners did not return to Uganda.

Powers of attorney
Parliament established that some of those involved in this unlawful repossession had gone to Canada and Britain where most of the Asians relocated to, and obtained powers of attorney, which they used to repossess the properties and later take control over them. Some of those who used powers of attorney to take control have since sold off the properties and have not remitted proceeds from the sales to the original owners.

Mr Kasozi accuses Mr Mohammad Allibhai, the chairperson of the Association of Expropriated Properties Owners Ltd, whose Alderbridge Real Estate & Management Ltd manages properties in all the country’s major towns for at least 1,000 original owners who never returned to Uganda, of being one of those who fraudulently took control of properties.

“I met almost 700 Asians in Canada. They told us by who and how their property was grabbed. Allibhai’s name kept coming up. Some of them (Asians) attempted to return to Uganda, but were intercepted at the airport and told to go back on grounds that Uganda was very insecure,” Mr Kasozi said.
One of the recommendations of the committee was that all repossessions that did not meet the requirements of EPA be revoked.

“All repossessions whose former owners didn’t physically return to manage the properties as required by law should be cancelled or revoked for being null and void… The minister should invoke his/her powers under Section 9(1) of EPA to make an order to either retain such properties as government or the same be disposed of in a manner prescribed by Regulation 11 of the Expropriated Properties (Repossession and Disposal)…” the committee recommends.
It also recommended the revocation of all transfers of ownership that were not effected on the basis of repossession certificates, and prosecution of all those found to have fraudulently acquired the property. 
Can Cosase report be implemented?
The question though, is whether the recommendations can ever be implemented.

The Minister for Finance, Mr Matia Kasaija, told Sunday Monitor in a recent interview that government had already set into motion the legal process that will lead to the revocation of the certificates of repossession. 
That should lead to the seizure of more than 100 properties that are now in private hands, and up to another 2,000 that were repossessed illegally.
“The law is taking its course. That is what I can say for now. I cannot reveal more than that,” Mr Kasaija told Sunday Monitor in a previous interview.

But Mr Kasozi laughs off Minister Kasaija’s comments, saying he does not see government ever recovering those properties. He argues that so many powerful people, including politicians, wealthy business people, some of the top lawyers, including those who have since risen to become judges, are involved in what has since turned out to be something akin to a free-for-all rush for the Asians’ properties.

Ministers involved
Mr Kasozi’s sentiments are not difficult to justify. In August 2019, his committee received information that the Prime minister then, Dr Ruhakana Rugunda, and a host of other former members of Mr Museveni’s Cabinet, had used their offices to influence decisions of DAPCB’s Divestiture Committee in regard to the sale of certain properties.

In that category were former prime minister Kintu Musoke, MP Michael Werikhe Kafabusa, former minister Hope Mwesigye, former Speaker James Wapakhabulo (RIP), and former minister Basoga Nsadhu (RIP).
Other NRM politicians, including former ministers Dr Crispus Kiyonga and Dr Elioda Tumwesigye, had also reportedly acquired some of the former Asians’ property under controversial circumstances.

Enter AG and SG
The Attorney General (AG) and the Solicitor General (SG) have already had their say. Following a decision by DAPCB to recover Plot 14C, Martin Road in Kampala, which is believed to have been wrongfully repossessed, the Solicitor General penned a June 15 letter to Finance minister and DAPCB, saying they had no powers to cancel the repossession certificates.

“The Hon Attorney General has advised as follows: That he has previously advised on such matters vide his letter to the Hon Minister of Finance, Planning and Economic Development ref.ADM31/197/01 dated August 15. That as per the said letter of August 2019, the minister responsible for Finance (or Departed Asians Property Custodian Board) “(“The Board”) has no powers to cancel a certificate of repossession previously issued by him or her… That powers is reserved for the High Court of Uganda under section 15 of the Expropriated Properties…” the Solicitor General’s letter reads in part.

But city lawyer Dan Wandera Ogalo disagrees with the Solicitor General’s conclusions.
“Now if the minister accepted the recommendations of the committee and it is agreed that all those people who did not come back within 120 days to reside here as required under the provisions of the Expropriated Properties Act (EPA), then the minister can directly revoke the certificates that he issued. That can be done by the minister. That does not have to go to court,” Mr Ogalo said.

Mr Kasozi, however, believes some of the conclusions arrived at by, especially the former Attorney General, Mr William Byaruhanga, were influenced by the fact that he is an interested party. 
“Do you know who is involved in the fight for Plot 9 Dewinton Road? It is (former Attorney General) William Byaruhanga. Would you have expected him to have given an opinion that would have affected him too?” Mr Kasozi wonders.

Mr Ibrahim Kasozi

Mr Byaruhanga says it is true he has been involved in a protracted fight for the Dewinton Road property, but says it is a property that he has partially owned since 1994. He says the matter has been before both Parliament and the courts and that he owns three out of the four shops on the property, while Mr Shukla Mukesh, alias Shumuk, owns one of the shops on the condominium property.

Mr Byaruhanga at first denied having given any opinion in regard to the Asian properties, but when reminded of reference that the Solicitor General had made to his own communication, said his opinion was not cast in stone.
“Well if the Attorney General gives an opinion, it is an opinion. If somebody does not agree with it, he can test it in a courtroom,” Mr Byaruhanga said.

Judges involved
Mr Kasozi says it should not come as a surprise that offices such as those of the Solicitor General, the Attorney General, and even the courts make seemingly controversial decisions.
“Some lawyers took some of the properties. There are even judges. They took some of those properties or helped people to take them. They took those things before they became who they are. That is why you will have some fake judgments because they are protecting their things,” Mr Kasozi says.

To whom will those who seek to stop the grab turn if the offices of the Attorney General, that of the Solicitor General and the courts seem to be working in the interest of the property grabbers? That is the question.

Plot No.      Location                 Town

Plot 23    Kumi Road    Mbale
Plot 6    Kalekeezi Close, Kololo    Kampala
Plot 147    Namirembe    Kampala
Plot 205    Kibuga Block 29, Mulago Hill    Kampala
Plot 19    Nakasero Road    Kampala
Plot 21A    Queen’s Road    Kampala
Plot 8    Bukoto Street    Kampala 
Plot 13    Luwum Street    Kampala 
Plot 4 &6    Maluku Road    Mbale
Plot 273    Kibuga Block 4, Namirembe    Kampala
Plot 9    Block L, Namaliga Market    Bombo
Plot 3    Block A    Namasagali
Plot 1    Block A, Mainze    Mbale
Plot 3    Block A    Mbale
Plot 29    Naboa Road    Mbale
Plot 21    First Lane    Jinja
Plot 19    Block A Irundu     Kamuli
Plot 6    Nehru Road    Gulu
Plot 3    Kijunjubwa Road    Masindi
Plot 7    Block D    Ngora
Plot 15    Transport Road    Arua
Plot 30    Nkinzi Road, Wandegeya    Kampala
Plot 21    Kyadondo Kibuga Block 38    Kampala
Plot 12A    Prince Charles Drive    Kampala
Plot 28    Mackenzie Vale    Kampala
Plot 3    Bugweri Avenue    Iganga
Plot 2    Guruduara Road    Tororo
Plot 30    Naboa Road    Mbale
Plot 4    Parliament Avenue    Kampala
Plot 5    Rukidi Iii Street    Fort Portal

Plot 4    Victoria Road    Masaka 
Plot 10, 8 &10      Nagongera Road    Tororo
Plot 5    Rashid Khamis Road    Kampala
Plot 2    Nizam Road East    Jinja
Plot 4    Hanlon Close    Kampala
Plot 7    Makerere,    Kampala
Plot 7    School Drive    Mbale
Plot 20,22          & 24    7th Street Industrial Area    Kampala
Plot 5    Block 33 Kabirizi Estate    Toro
Plot 12    Mvule Crescent    Jinja
Plot 8    Bukoto Street    Kololo Hill, Kampala 
Plot 13    Luwum Street    Kampala
Plot 273    Kibuga Block 4     Namirembe
Plot 240    Kibuga Block 12    Mengo Hill
Plot 69    Kampala Road    Entebbe
Plot 6    Mcallister Road    Mbarara
Plot 29    Makerere    Kyadondo
Plot 10    First Avenue    Jinja
Plot 2 to 10    Jashbhai Road    Kaliro 
Plot 25    Bell Avenue West and Plot No.1 Elgon Avenue    Jinja
Plot 1    Commercial Street    Masindi
Plot 3    Gokhale Road    Jinja
Plot 7    School Drive    Mbale
Plot 7    Makerere    Kampala
Plot 4    Hanlon Close    Kampala
 

Plot 2    Nizam Road East    Jinja
Plot 5    Rashid Khamis Road    Kampala
Plot 10    Plot Between Plots 8 &10 Nagongera Road    Tororo
Plot 4    Victoria Road    Masaka 
Plot 5    Rukidi III Street    Fort Portal
Plot 4    Parliament Avenue    Kampala
Plot 30    Naboa Road    Mbale
Plot 2    Guruduara Road    Tororo
Plot 3    Bugweri Avenue    Busembatya
Plot 28    Mackenzie Vale    Kampala
Plot 12A    Prince Charles Drive    Bugolobi, Kampala
Plot 21    Kyadondo Kibuga Block 38    Kampala
Plot 30    Nkinzi Road, Wandegeya    Kampala
Plot 15    Transport Road    Arua
    Kingami Tea Estate    Burahya, Toro
    2.8 Acres at Lugazi,            known as crematorium    Buikwe
    5.00 Acres Near Orungo In County of Soroti    Soroti
    Achuna Residential Estates    
Plot 28    Gamsby Avenue     Mbale
    Busiro Ginnery Residential Quarters    
Plot 147    Namirembe    Kampala
    Kujulirwa Estate    
    Nyendo Maize Mill    Masaka
    Land At Kingami    Burahya, Toro
 

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