Land Titles for Uganda's embassy in South Africa, ambassadors residence, missing

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Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee is probing allegations that the land titles for Uganda’s Mission in Pretoria and the Ambassador’s official residency went missing after both the current and former ambassadors denied knowledge of having seen the documents at the time they held office.

This followed the revelation by Andrew Nyumba, Acting Secretary to Uganda Land Commission (ULC) who informed the Committee that although he had received a similar request from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to provide a copy of the titles, but the search through the Commission’s records yielded nothing fruitful.

We actually got a request from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs last week to avail these titles we have checked all our titles, but unfortunately, we haven’t been able to come across the titles for the chancellery in Pretoria and the official residency. I talked to the current Ambassador Paul Amoru, and he told me he has never seen those titles, but he agreed that he can conduct a search with the deeds office in South Africa, and if necessary, they can obtain a substitute,” said Nyumba.

The Secretary added that when the same question was put to the former Ambassador, Sarah Nakamya, she said that in all her tenure there, she never saw those documents and she also referred him to her predecessor, Julius Kivuna who also said the same thing that they never saw any of these documents.

The Committee’s probe into the matter followed a directive issued by Deputy Speaker Thomas Tayebwa at the start of November 2023, where she directed the Committee to give details in regards to information provided before Parliament by Florence Asiimwe district woman representative Masindi who advised the Government that Uganda’s Mission in Pretoria should emulate other Missions and acquire accommodation for their staff hence reduce on accommodation expenditure while retaining the properties as properties in Uganda.

The Foreign Affairs Committee was also ordered by Deputy Speaker Thomas Tayebwa to investigate claims that Uganda’s High Commission in South Africa had borrowed money and establish who authorized the borrowing since borrowing can only be authorized by Parliament.

Norah Bigirwa, Buliisa Woman Representative who also doubles as Chairperson, Foreign Affairs Committee revealed that Tayebwa’s directive prompted the Committee to send a delegation of MPs to Pretoria, in South Africa to undertake the activities, and while executing the assignment, the Committee found it prudent to look at and examine certain documents including the properties of Uganda in South Africa. Some of the documents include certificates of titles for properties held in South Africa.

While reacting to Nyumba’s admission, Bigirwa asked, “We have got many properties for our Missions, is it only this one that is missing for Pretioria? Do you have the rest of the certificates that we own as a country in those other Missions?”

Nyumba replied, “There are some that we have, unfortunately, we haven’t come with the list of those that we have in our custody, but I am also told that some properties are held under Uganda Property Holdings.”

However, Judith Peace Achan Nwoya District Woman representative asked the Committee to reign over John Mulimba, Minister of State for Regional Affairs, whom he accused of intimidating MPs against probing the issue of the missing land titles, and vowed never to produce the titles unless Parliament secured a court order.

“In the last meeting, we held, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs was really tough, even Minister John Mulimba (Minister of State for Regional Affairs) told us that we were wasting our time. He was very tough on us, he said we were investigating nothing and we should also be investigating why we went to South Africa just because of this title. He said that title will not appear unless you go to court.”

His revelation angered some MPs like Lucy Akello (Amuru District) who demanded an apology from Minister Mulimba for intimidation and interference with the Committee’s mandate.

“If it is indeed true and we have the record that the Minister uttered that statement, that is intimidation. We aren’t doing this work on our own behalf, we are doing this work on behalf of the Parliament of Uganda. For the minister to come and say we shall be investigated for going to Pretoria while doing poor work, this needs disciplinary action. I want you to take this very seriously, this Minister must be brought to book and he has to come to this Committee and apologize.”

Bigirwa gave the Uganda Land Commission up to Tuesday next week to furnish the Committee with a written response about the missing titles in South Africa, as well as produce a list of all the land titles from other Missions abroad.

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