Lawyers warn against mishandling of Muslim property cases

Lawyers warn against mishandling of Muslim property cases
Muslim lawyers led by Ali Kankaka (left)

Muslim lawyers, represented by the Uganda Muslim Lawyers Association (UMLAS), have raised concerns and issued a warning to both the judiciary and the political class.

They are urging caution to prevent the exacerbation of the current situation surrounding Muslim-owned properties.

The lawyers have proposed filing a lawsuit against both the buyer and the seller involved in the auction of the purported Ssembabule land, which includes the old Kampala misquote, the Muslim headquarters, and other Muslim properties.

During the annual Muslim dinner in Kampala, Ali Kankaka, the president of UMLAS, emphasized the need for a thorough evaluation of court orders and assessments presented.

"We must be careful when dealing with Old Kampala, attempting to sell it. Muslims are deeply connected to their faith, and if they feel provoked, they may take matters into their own hands. This would be a terrible development for all of us," Kankaka stated.

He expressed concerns that some leaders might be manipulating the situation to suggest selling the property instead of exploring alternative solutions.

"There is a possibility that an atmosphere is being created around the seizure of the Old Kampala mosque and other properties, making it easier for the government to demand payment and use part of it to compensate these people. As Muslim lawyers, we need to look beyond the literal interpretation of these court orders and question the motives behind them," Kankaka speculated.

Kankaka also raised the possibility of government involvement in acquiring properties in exchange for compensation.

"People are planning to sell these properties, but they are trying to manipulate some of us into accepting the threat of losing the headquarters, so we agree to give up other properties instead. Those involved in these transactions knew very well that the situation would escalate to this point, creating tension and manipulating the Muslim community," he explained.

He urged lawyers to focus on facts and relevant aspects rather than emotional reactions. He also addressed leadership challenges within the Muslim community and called upon leaders to address the problem rather than exacerbating tensions.

"We all belong to different factions, but we must recognize that our umbrella organization is the Uganda Muslim Supreme Council, and none of the individuals in charge can claim superiority," Kankaka emphasized.

The lawyers expressed surprise and deep concern over the denial of an opportunity for the Uganda Muslim Supreme Council (UMSC) to be heard in the legal proceedings.

UMSC is facing legal challenges following a High Court decision to grant a warrant of attachment and sale of its prime properties, including the headquarters in Old Kampala, as well as properties in Entebbe, Jinja, Mbale, and Nakasongola.

The situation arose from a land sale agreement between Justus Kyabahwa and UMSC in Ssembabule, dated June 24, 2020.

The agreement involved land occupied by squatters, and both parties agreed to lawfully remove the squatters within 60 days.

However, three days after the agreement, Justus Kyabahwa and his agents forcefully evicted the squatters, resulting in a lawsuit against UMSC.

Three years later, Kyabahwa sued UMSC for over 18 billion Ugandan shillings, and the court ordered UMSC to pay.

UMSC filed an appeal, but the case has not yet been heard by the Court of Appeal as of the latest update.

Subsequently, UMSC received an application for execution, seeking to attach and sell various properties, including the National Mosque in Old Kampala.

UMSC's application for a stay of execution was dismissed, leading to an appeal in the Court of Appeal.

On November 16, the High Court issued a warrant of attachment and sale for several UMSC properties.

The lawyers have formed a dedicated five-member committee to gather information and assess the judgment regarding the Uganda Muslim Supreme Council (UMSC) and its prime properties at risk of being seized.

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