KAMPALA —The Court of Appeal has confirmed that tycoon Ben Kavuya, the Chairman and founder member of Legacy Group fraudulently acquired the contested 714.3 hectares (about 2.8 square miles) in Kabula County, Lyantonde District.
In a ruling delivered Friday, November 25, Justice Cheborion Bonny Barishaki of the Court of Appeal ruled that Mr Kavuya, who also owns Global Capital Savings Company and Rutungo Investments Limited, with interests in real estate and money lending obtained the land title in a manner that contravened the law.
However, since Mr. Kavuya has been living on the land for a long time, Justice Barishaki invoked the adverse possession of the controversial 12-year rule.
Adverse possession is the occupation of land that belongs to someone else without permission.
The ‘twelve year rule’ means that if a person has been in possession of unregistered land for 12 years, then they can acquire legal title to the land.
This means that subsequent purchasers can have certainty about their title. The obligation on owners is to check their land at least every 12 years.
This ‘rule’ can provide certainty of title, and clarity, for example where a boundary has existed in the wrong location for a long period of time.
However, it can also be taken advantage of by ‘squatters’ giving them the opportunity to acquire apparently vacant property.
“No action shall be brought by any person to recover any land after the expiration of twelve years from the date on which the right of action accrued to him or her or, if it first accrued to some person through whom he or she claims, to that person,” the rule reads.
Speaking to UG Standard, lawyer Godfrey Rwalinda Jambo of Jambo & Company Advocates said tycoon Kavuya used his influence to get land titles through fraud, a development he described as illegal.
The court ordered that out of 714.3 Hectares that Ben Kavuya sought to retain, he is only entitled to 472.2 Hectares and to that effect directed the commissioner land registration to rectify Ben Kavuya’s certificate of title by adjusting the acreage of 714 Hectares to 472.272 hectares and that the remaining land after deducting 472. 272 forms part of the estate of the respondents.
Impliedly the respondents’ counsel Mr. Rwalinda Jambo Godfrey saved 241.3 hectares that were about to be taken by Ben Kavuya.
The Court, however directed Jambo & Company Advocates to pay 3/4 of the costs from the High Court and Court of Appeal.
Rwalinda told this website that he would appeal this decision.
“We think, it wasn’t a fair decision, although we won partially,” he said.
Rwalinda said that it’s not also true as Kavuya put it that the title over raps the contested land.
“It is one title which Kavuya got on top of our title. He just cut from us, so it’s not over rapping.”
He added: “Kavuya has to return the 241. However, we have opted to go to the Supreme Court to have the full land back to us”.
Rwalinda also dismissed reports that he personally went to Lyantonde to source for affected persons to represent them.
“They are people who had the land title and they came to my office for legal advice and we filed the case for them.”
Rwalinda says he believes “we still have a very good case in the Supreme Court”.
He accused tycoon Kavuya propaganda tactics to show that he won. “He didn’t win”. Rwalinda said
“241 hactares, if you convert it to acres, it is about 595 acres. In terms of money, in Kabula there, an acre is at UGX UGX. 10 million, so, he is losing UGX 5.9 billion. That’s a very big loss and I know he’s not a very happy man.”
In the High Court his defence, Mr Kavuya had insisted that he purchased and entered the land in 1994 with the knowledge and consent of the registered proprietors and squatters on the land.
He also argued that he had been in possession of the land unchallenged since 1994, which nullifies the complainants claims.