TI Investigation Desk: The demolition of St Peter’s Church Ndeeba wrought misery in many Christian souls. The standing steeple and cross amidst hips of rubble solicited public claims of an injustice even before the story was told. Such passion may have been justified. Although the story of its demolition has been published with reference made to the case that cost Church of Uganda the land, much was left uncovered.
The origins of the suit land trace back to 1900, when Buganda accepted British protection in exchange for cooperation. In the 1900 Buganda agreement, land was divided into Mailo and crown land. The private Mailo suit land was given to Evelyn Nachwa, a princess and daughter to Ssekabaka Daudi Chwa.
In the nearer past, the Christians of Ndeeba indulged in prayers under trees; something that is cringe worthy to any Christian. As such, the princess desired to donate a portion of her land to the church whereupon they could construct a House for the Lord. There was one issue however…
Nachwa’s land was home to something sacred to the Baganda; oluzzi lwa Kabaka (the King’s well). Church of Uganda registers its land in names of trustees, one of whom would have been the Archbishop. At the time, the land would be registered in the names of a non-Muganda Archbishop, Silvanus Wani. For the princess, this was cause for worry. Having no deep-rooted traditional value to the sacred sight, the non-Muganda might have violated its sanctity by utilising it.
It was decided that the title would be registered under the Namirembe diocese where the ‘trustees’ would be Baganda. Enters Bishop Dustan Nsubuga and two blood brothers; Rev. Yudda Kitaka and Esau Kizito. Although they were registered as proprietors of the land, it was understood that they would be custodians. This accomplished, the Church of Uganda gained full access to the land.
The church and several houses for the parishioners were thereby erected. Worship and other christianly activities carried on for decades, including the fund-raising efforts for completion of the Church. Many Christians of St Peter’s Church contributed to this cause over the years. Among them was Dodovico Mwanje who made a UGX15m donation. Much appreciated!
The same Mwanje had been purchasing the land around the church from the administrators of Nachwa’s estate. He approached the church to purchase its land, offering to relocate the same elsewhere. This was obviously unpalatable to the Christians. They worked on the land for decades and preferred to continue doing the same.
This rejection pushed the dissatisfied entrepreneur to work around the obstacle. He thus approached the administrators of Nachwa’s estate. These were pushed to investigate why they did not have administration over the land that was surrounded by their estate. With the passage of the land discovered, it was clear that they couldn’t profit from it. They were intrigued by the idea of changing that in their favour. Also, the administrators of the estates of those that were at one time custodians couldn’t profit from the property.
The plot unfolds!
The administrators of Nachwa’s estate filed a suit to challenge the church ownership of the land. Oddly enough, the court had to direct them to add the trustees of the Church of Uganda, who had active and known interest in the land, to the suit, as the 5th defendant.
The original defendants were the administrators of the estates of Bishop Dustan Nsubuga (Lucy Nsubuga), Esau K. Kizito (Constance Nalongo Kizito) and Yudda Kitaka (Armstrong Kiteesa) as well as the Commissioner Land Registration [4th defendant]. However, this story will focus on the second and third defendants, for there lies the gist.
Esau K. Kizito, a wealthy and polygamous man, was married in Church to Ekiriya Lakeri Kizito but cohabited with Constance Kizito. After the death of Esau, Ekiriya was granted letters of administration to Esau’s estate in Mengo Admin. Cause No. GK 333/1997. These were granted by Chief Magistrate Namundi Godfrey, as he was then.
With these letters still active, the cohabiting Constance applied for and was granted letters of administration to the same estate in Mengo Admin. Cause No. 46/2000. These were granted by then Chief Magistrate Deo Nizeyimana, a judge that is now interdicted over abuse of judicial authority.
This prompted Esau’s official wife, Ekiriya, to challenge Constance’s letters of administration in Mengo CS No.490/2000. However, it was agreed by both parties therein that both letters be cancelled. Kiteesa Armstrong (son of Constance), Nuwa Kaddu and Yuda Kitaka applied for letters of administration to Esau’s estate in the same suit. These were granted joint administration over the same in the High Court on 28th August 2007; videte HCT-00-CV-AC-635-2004.
Interestingly, when the plaintiffs filed the suit, they sued Constance Nnalongo Kizito as the administratrix of Esau’s estate. Ordinarily, the 2nd defendant would inform the court that she was no longer the administratrix of the estate having had her letter cancelled in 2007. Yet, she couldn’t because she was ailing and not in court.
Armstrong Kiteesa had been sued as both administrator to the estate of Yuda Kitaka and the Attorney of Constance. This meant that he had attained powers of attorney from Constance and was therefore in charge of all her properties.
The first query is this; having known that he and two others had attained letters of administration to Esau’s estate thereby cancelling those that Constance had, why didn’t he inform the court of the same? Why didn’t he notify the plaintiffs that the 2nd defendant was wrongly sued as she was not the administratrix of Esau K. Kizito’s estate? Sneaky, isn’t it?
The second query arises out of the fact that Yuda Kitaka has a living wife and son, a one Dan, who is the current administrator of his father’s estate. Therefore, Armstrong Kizito misrepresented himself as first an administrator of an estate that he has no power over and second; as an attorney to someone who he knew well, was not the one purported to be in the suit.
Nonetheless, Constance Kizito passed on in 2016. When the person who assigns power of attorney to another dies, that power of attorney is revoked by the fact. Yet, the suit carried on in spite of Kiteesa’s loss of attorney for Constance.
Further, in 2012, Kiteesa’s co-joint administrators, Yuda Kitaka and Nuwa Kaddu, passed on. As per the law, the duo’s demise nullified the letters of administration. Thus, Kiteesa had to reapply for the same. This, he did and was granted on 1ST January 2015. Although not initially a peculiar fact, it’s odd that the court decreed this on a public holiday! It is well known that civil offices are closed for business on such days. It then begs the question; how genuine were the letters of administration granted on the New Year’s Day? Another conundrum is that the judicial calendar indicates a court vacation between 23rd December and 7th January. Thus, all legal matters requiring court attention, with the exception of criminal cases, are heard after this vacation.
The family of the late Esau Kizito challenged Kiteesa’s letters of administration in Civil Suit No.203/2016. This is an ongoing case in the High Court (Family Division) and the hearing of which is fixed for 9th November this year. This means that Civil Suit No.432/2008 should have been stopped pending a decision from CS No.203/2016. This however did not happen because the court handling the church land suit was not appraised of the ongoing suit at Family Court!
Further, Ambrose Tebyasa, the counsel for the 1st, 2nd and 3rd defendants in CS No.432/2008 is the counsel for Kiteesa Armstrong in CS No.203/2016. This means that with knowledge of the facts in the latter, he insisted on upholding the defence that buried the Church interest in the suit land in the former.
One may also note that having heard the first three defendants, the court noted that alternative dispute resolutions could have resolved the matters. As per the facts presented in court, there was simply a misunderstanding between the plaintiffs and the defendant administrators. Yet, only a court declaration could get the plaintiffs the desired result.
The custodians of the suit land when the Church was denied ownership over tribal concerns, have long passed on. As such, we cannot have undisputable testimony to the facts. We have parties that have much commercial gain from the church losing the land.
The plaintiffs, or at least their counsel, failed to do a commendable job. Whether the counsel in him verified the letters of administration presented by the defendants, is uncertain. Why he thought it proper to sue Constance is baffling! Still, why was Kiteesa sued as the administrator of an estate for which he had no Letters of Administration?
It is beyond question that Kiteesa facilitated a grave misrepresentation when he neglected to object to Constance being sued as the administratrix to an estate where her letters of administration had been cancelled! One also wonders whether Tebyasa, counsel for defendants 1, 2 and 3, did not misrepresent himself and his clients having full knowledge of the facts in CS No.203/2016 at the Family Division Court.
Yet, the biggest question of all; who did the plaintiffs serve in this suit. Was it Constance Kizito herself, a woman that wasn’t in court to object to the suit? Or, was it Kiteesa who was served in his misrepresented capacities? The judicial process ought not to be flawed for this mess. The decision, although legally logical, was based on a series of misrepresented facts.
The defence was all too happy to deny any knowledge of having administrative authority over the estates. The plaintiffs’ case was essentially made by the defendant’s denials and the silence of an indifferent entity. The Church of Uganda therefore lost the case due to a well spun web of lies.
- Joel Kenneth Ndawula is a Student of Law at Uganda Martyrs University Nkozi. He is an inspired writer, the editor and author here; a blogger of sorts.
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