High Court Rejects Uganda Muslim Supreme Council’s Appeal in Land Dispute

high court rejects uganda muslim supreme councils appeal in land dispute
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The High Court Commercial Division has dismissed the Uganda Muslim Supreme Council’s (UMSC) appeal in a land dispute with businessman Justus Kyahabwa. The court issued an execution order attaching UMSC properties across the country to recover UGX 19 billion claimed by Kyahabwa.

Mufti Sheikh Ramadhan Mubajje criticized the court’s ruling, alleging bias towards those with financial influence. UMSC’s attempt to block Kyahabwa from claiming a refund of UGX 3.5 billion and an additional UGX 9 billion in interest ultimately failed.

Legal experts analyzing the case suggest that UMSC’s application was destined to fail based on the arguments presented by its legal team during the application for unconditional leave to appear and defend the civil suit.

Details from the sale agreement between UMSC and Kyahabwa have raised concerns. It was revealed that Mufti Sheikh Ramadhan Mubajje and former UMSC Chairperson Dr. Abdul Kadir Balonde signed a sale agreement for a two-square-mile land in Sembabule district on June 24, 2020. Kyahabwa paid UGX 3.5 billion for the land, which had existing encumbrances.

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Questions arise about why UMSC did not seek legal advice during the drafting of the contentious sales agreement and why both parties insisted on keeping the agreement confidential. Additionally, discrepancies in the sale of the same land to M/s Enterprise Handling Services Limited, as indicated in court records, have caused public concern.

This incident echoes the 2008 controversy when Mufti Sheikh Ramadhan Mubajje and his executive members were accused of illegally selling UMSC properties, leading to the formation of a breakaway faction headquartered at Kibuli Mosque, led by Supreme Mufti Sheikh Shaban Galabuzi.

Lady Justice Harriet Grace Magala, in her ruling, dismissed UMSC’s application for unconditional leave to defend the suit, citing the sale agreement as a crucial factor. The judge held that UMSC failed to demonstrate any triable issues justifying the grant of unconditional leave. She emphasized that UMSC’s case lacked merit, and the court ordered UMSC to pay Kyahabwa close to UGX 19 billion.

Magala’s ruling highlighted various arguments presented by UMSC and their subsequent dismissal. The judge refuted claims that entering into the contract without legal representation rendered the contract void. Additionally, she disagreed with UMSC’s argument about non-payment of stamp duty, asserting that it was not fatal to the instrument’s admission in evidence.

The judge also addressed UMSC’s assertion that Kyahabwa was wrongly before the court due to a clause in the agreement requiring arbitration before legal proceedings. She deemed the clause inoperable and incapable of being performed, stating that it was poorly drafted.

Concerns were raised about the significant increase in the claimed amount from UGX 3.584 billion paid by Kyahabwa to the current UGX 19 billion in three years. UMSC argued that the 12% per month interest rate was excessive and illegal, but the judge ruled that the court cannot change the agreement between the parties.

The ruling shed light on the complexities of the case, including the involvement of M/s Enterprise Handling Services Limited, the court decision in Civil Suit No. 20 of 2020, and the subsequent consent agreement between ENHAS and UMSC.

The confidential nature of the sales agreement has also raised eyebrows, as both parties agreed to treat all information concerning the transaction as confidential.

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