Out of Court settlement may not be applicable in all land cases.

land evictionsKAMPALA, UGANDA: Charles Lwanga Masengere and Misanga Supply Farm limited have been involved court battles over land in Mubende District for the last six years. This is one of the very many unresolved land cases in courts of law.

And for that matter lawyers in land related cases have been advised to always look out for amicable solutions for their clients instead on focusing on legal technicalities.

The advice was issued recently by Justice Wilson Kwesiga of the High Court land division while setting a hearing date for land case involving Charles Lwanga Masengere and six others.

Charles Lwanga Masengere sued Misanga Supply Farm limited owned by a one Kalangwa and others for fraudulent acquiring his land measuring 3000 acres.

Based on the long time the case has been dragging on since 2009, Justice Kwesiga said lawyers in such land matters should give their clients an option of peaceful settlement of issues.

Still Kwesiga set the 17th of November this year as a hearing date for the case. He said the parties could use this time before the case hearing and try to resolve the matter amicably.

He asked Counsel Denis Kwizera representing the plaintiff and counsel Simon Peter Sekidde for the defendants to utilize the time given to consider a peaceful mediation that would save a lot time, resources for the parties involved and even cut on case backlog in court.

“I don’t want you to be legalistic because there is need to consider human occupancy in this whole issue. Because for an individual to won more than 3000 acres, is not equitable when others are left to suffer on the street”-Justice Kwesiga noted.

From the humanitarian perspective, the judges’ piece of advice to the warring parties is very valid but one wonders what kind of precedent that would set, especially in a case where one of parties is alleged to have fraudulently acquired the land titles to grab the property in question.

In response to the judges’ advice to the lawyers of the two warring parties for a peaceful settlement, the plaintiff, Mr. Masengere who claims ownership of the 3000 acres, says there would be no problem negotiating with the vulnerable squatters on the land but it would be unfair to negotiate with a handful of individuals who evicted the land owners together with the squatters.  He says he cannot dialogue in a situation where there is glaring evidence that the one Kalangwa of the Misanga Supply Farm Limited fraudulently grabbed his property.

Masengere says the defendants who are Misanga Supply Farm Limited and others simply rented a piece of land for a period of 1 and 6 months from his uncle (Antonio Kasozi) with no right because he was simply a farm manager. Later on John Munvuneza came with several of his people, who sold the land to Misanga Supply Farm Uganda limited that turned around with claims of having got a lease for part of the land from Mubende District Land Board also a defendant in this case.

Before anyone knew it they also produced land titles to the remaining piece of land and thereby displacing the squatters and the original land lord of the entire 3000 acres, Masengere adds.

However before court, the defendants denied the allegations of fraud and the evictions of Masengere and his family.

So for Masengere negotiating with his tormentors who destroyed his properties worth over 500 million shillings, other peoples’ households and causing his imprisonment can only be described as rewarding wrong doers, on top of grabbing his land.

For that matter whereas mediation would be one of the best option, in cases where wealthy and well-connected individuals that can deployed military officers to terrorize an entire village and order the poor vulnerable residents to vacate without consideration of their land rights stipulated  in the laws, it may cause more harm than good in the long run.

This is because some well placed people in society may deliberately  flout the land laws well knowing that at the end of the day they have an option of negotiating with the weaker side that will be easily compromised.