By The Insight Post Uganda
The Chief Magistrates Court in Mukono district has dismissed the criminal charges that Major Mark Wanyama, a senior officer in the Uganda People’s Defense Forces (UPDF) had filed against businessman Jackson Twinamasiko.
These charges were related to a disagreement about who owns a piece of land.
Twinamasiko’s legal counsel, Steven Turyatunga, successfully petitioned the court to dismiss the criminal charges, emphasizing that they should be put on hold until the resolution of the ongoing civil suits in the High Court.
This legal saga began for Twinamasiko on August 1, when he visited the Crime Investigations Department (CID) in Kibuli to follow up on a complaint against Ben Mugisha, a police officer attached to the land protection desk.
Mugisha had reportedly enclosed Twinamasiko’s place of business without official summons during the nighttime.
To Twinamasiko’s surprise, he found himself under arrest during this visit and was charged with offences including causing intentional property damage, removing boundaries, and trespassing on land claimed by Major Mark Wanyama. The disputed land is situated on Mbeya Island in Mpunge Sub-County, within the Mukono district.
In the recent ruling, Chief Magistrate Roselyn Nsenge concurred with Turyatunga’s argument that Twinamasiko had been wrongfully arrested and charged for cases that were already pending in the High Court.
She cited the ongoing civil suits in her decision, asserting that there was no necessity to address similar issues in the lower court.
Both parties, the complainant and the accused, had initiated civil suits in the High Court, seeking a declaration of land ownership.
The High Court had also issued a temporary injunction, permitting the defendant to use the land and restricting the complainant from accessing it.
Nsenge stated, “There is a potential of clashing with the High Court decision once this court allows the criminal proceedings, the proceedings in this matter are hereby stayed pending the High Court decision.”
During the preliminary objection hearing, the prosecution, represented by Collins Ouma, argued that the case revolved around possession rather than ownership and insisted that the trespass had occurred on June 9, 2021.
Turyatunga maintained that Major Wanyama had employed military force to seize land previously in civilian possession, disregarding an interim court order from November 27, 2019, and a subsequent temporary injunction issued in February 2020.
Nsenge noted that since neither the complainant nor the defendant possessed the land’s title and there were court orders from a superior court, the concept of possession and ownership did not apply.
She warned, “Think of what will happen in case the respondent is convicted of criminal trespass and then the High Court declares him the owner of the contested land.”
Turyatunga commended the court’s decision to stay the proceedings, as pursuing both criminal and civil cases concurrently would result in double jeopardy. He also pointed out that Wanyama had essentially turned a civil dispute into a criminal matter.
Wanyama’s lawyer, Jabar Luyima, expressed dissatisfaction with the court’s ruling, stating that it lacked merit. He indicated the possibility of appealing the decision. Luyima criticized the abuse of legal processes and the initiation of parallel civil cases at both the High Court and Chief Magistrates Court.
The legal battle underscores the complexity of land disputes, the importance of adherence to court orders, and the potential ramifications of pursuing both criminal and civil actions simultaneously.