The rift between the Commission of Inquiry in land matters chaired by Justice Catherine Bamugemereire and the judiciary, headed by Bart Katureebe has widened, the Nile Post has learnt.
In October, Bamugemereire accused several judicial officers of colluding with colleagues from government to forcefully evict people from land in disregard of the law in what she termed as a syndicate.
“Notably, the manner in which the orders, rulings and judgments are arrived at indicates a grand level of ‘cartelization’ between government officers that allows the issuance of titles, no objection approvals and other such facilitating documents,” Bamugemereire said in a statement in October.
In response, the Chief Justice Bart Katureebe later responded t Bmugemereire accusing her of using a wrong forum to address her complaints.
The judiciary, however, is concerned with the mode used by the Commission to communicate matters of such serious nature. We would have expected the Commission to communicate findings of such a serious nature in form of an Interim Report to the President, not a Press Release,” said Katureebe three days later.
However, in the following days, all actions have indicated that the row between the two has deepened.
Recently, the Land Division of the High Court trimmed Bamugemereire commission’s wings through a ruling by Justice Andrew Bashaija through reversing an order made by the commission and also stopped officials from the Ministry of Finance, Uganda Land Commission and any other government institution from interfering with the compensation in regards a certain plot of land.
The commission had ordered the Uganda Land Commission to halt any payment from the Land Fund to claimants including Robert Mwesigwa through his company, American Procurement Company pending conclusion of their investigations into alleged dubious payments in regards plots located at Kyaggwe, Buyaga and Bugangayizi.
The High court ruling trimmed the land commission’s powers and also quashed orders in regards payment of billions of shillings in compensation to businessmen by the Uganda Land Commission.
In response, the commission protested against the ruling by Justice Bashaija saying they had not been allowed the right to be heard by Justice Bashaija during his court proceedings.
“We note that the court contrived to reject all evidence presented on behalf of the Commission of Inquiry by the Attorney General for reasons that are not legally tenable,” said the commission its secretary Dr.Douglas Singiza in a response also copied to the Solicitor General.
“To add insult to injury, after declining to consider the affidavit, the honourable judge then went on reject an earlier affidavit filed by the Attorney General on the basis that the deponent was not an employee of the Commission of Inquiry .The irony of this suggests that the court was determined to treat the application as if it was unopposed.”
On Friday during the magistrate conference at Imperial Royale Hotel in Kampala, the Chief Justice Bart Katureebe opened the lid off the row.
Katureebe said just like young monkeys that laugh at a forest that has caught fire, Justice Bamugemereire should has failed to return home to solve the problems within the judiciary but busy fanning fire.
He said the land commission is blackmailing and attacking several judicial officers himself inclusive.
“We have been under attack personally institutionally for standing up and saying don’t say this. You remember the land commission issued a long statement about the ills and corruption of the judiciary,”Katureebe said on Friday.
He revealed that recently the Bamugemereire commission wrote to President Museveni about some judicial officers sabotaging its work.
“A statement from the land commission was written and read to the president that the Chief Justice was obstructing the work of the commission.”
He wondered how fellow members of the judiciary could continue blackmailing him over issues he I not aware of.
Several magistrates said that they now fear handling cases related to land for fear of clashing with the commission of inquiry into land matters.
In one incident, a judicial said she was forced to abandon a case that reached judgment level when the land commission asked that the court halts proceedings into the matter.
Waving a dossier allegedly written by Bamugemereire, Katureebe said it contained names of judicial officers who had taken bribes to mishandle land matters.
“In a passionate letter, Justice Rudagya feels his reputation and integrity after 20 years of service in the judiciary has been damaged and cannot go on with that case where he has been alleged to have taken a bribe,”Katureebe said.
The Chief Justice said the judge has returned the case file to the Principal Judge a thing he said contributes to case backlog.
“When people tell lies and insult one’s integrity without crosschecking facts, it may have an everlasting damaging effect.”
He liked the actions of the land commission to those of baby monkeys laughing at a forest that has caught fire not knowing that in turn they will also be affected.
“These are judicial officers whereas others are lawyers but somehow they think it helps them to burn the very forest in which they live. They are there enjoying and laughing not knowing that when the forest is burnt, they will have no food to eat and will also have nowhere to hide.”
Despite Katureebe insisting there is no bad blood between the judiciary he heads and the land probe, the actions and utterance especially in the public domain by both reflect otherwise.
He said a team has been put in place to examine the allegations before action is taken against the mentioned judicial officers.