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Wednesday, December 7, 2022

Ndeeba church demolition: How things fell apart

The demolition of St Peter’s Church of Uganda in the wee hours of August 10 has sparked off anger from church leaders, Christians and politicians.  

Police and the State House Anti-Corruption Unit (SH-ACU) have arrested police officers and a Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA) official.

The arrested senior officers police arrested over the demolition are: Katwe Division Police Commander David Epedu, Ndeeba Police Station OC Yeko Mugira Kato, and FFU Commander in charge of Kampala Metropolitan South region Kaloli Isabirye.

Others arrested are: Mohammad Kawooya, Muniru Bbosa, Amza Kiberu, Abbasi Mutebi, Ali Bulega, Simon Matovu, Ali Kalika, Andrew Mujuzi, Badru Ssekito, John Isirinya and Bashir Maruti.

According to Kampala Metropolitan Police (KMP) spokesperson Patrick Onyango and national police spokesperson Fred Enanga, the force didn’t sanction the demolition.

Police were not informed about the eviction and demolition as the practice is, said Onyango.

St Peter's Church of Uganda, Ndeeba, demolished
St Peter’s Church of Uganda, Ndeeba, demolished. Courtesy Photo

Enanga noted: “We intervened in the wrangle between the businessman and the church and an order was issued stopping any action.

“We are surprised by [Moses] Kirunda and his boss, Dodovic doing the demolition. We are wondering where the policemen deployed to guard the church were.”

Later on August 10, SH-ACU head Lt Col Edith Nakalema confirmed the arrest of Ivan Katongole, the KCCA acting director for Physical Planning.

Lt Col Nakalema said SH-ACU had briefed President Yoweri Museveni who ordered the unit “to use the full force of the law to cause justice to the believers and the Anglican community.”

“We promise the church that all shall be done to bring the culprits to order,” she added.

KCCA’S IVAN KATONGOLES ORDER

Ivan Katongole's demolition permit
Ivan Katongole’s demolition permit
KCCA acting director for planning Ivan Katongole's demolition permit
KCCA acting director for planning Ivan Katongole’s demolition permit

The police officers and KCCA’s Katongole are facing charges relating to the flouting of “established procedures and guidelines of the Judiciary, Ministry of Lands and police.”

Katongole issued a demolition permit to Dodovic aka Dodo and his men on July 30.

The fee for the demolition permit was Shs50,000 and was supposed to last two months.

Rubaga Division town clerk, director of revenue collection and building inspector were all aware that the demolition would happen sometime in July, August or September.

Katongole had copied them in the letter in which he gave permission for the church.

He had also set out the mode of demolition. He also explained why the church should be demolished at night.

“The demolition shall be carried out strictly during the weekends and off peak hours to avoid interruptions of traffic and other businesses within the vicinity of the site,” wrote Katongole.

“Use of simple conventional plants and tools for demolition shall be used.”

TROUBLE

But why would a church that has stood for over 40 years be brought down? This is the question most people are asking.

It is believed that Buganda Kingdom princess Evarini Nachwa donated the land under dispute to the church sometime in the 1960s.

Apparently, no transfer forms were signed to indicate that Princess Nachwa had given the land to the church.

But the land was registered in the names of three trustees: then Namirembe Diocese Bishop Danistan Nsubuga, Rev Yuda Kitaka, and Esau Kizito.

With the trio’s names showing on the land title without evidence of transfer of the land to them, Nachwa’s grandchildren reportedly challenged the church’s acquisition of the land.

In 2008, joint administrators Dan Ssemanga, John Kajoba, Edward Bulunga and Steven Nakibinge sought to challenge Uganda’s Anglican Church over the land.

In their suit, they also included the Commissioner of Land Registration as a respondent.

Ssemanga, Kajoba, Bulunga and Nakibinge argued that Nachwa’s land had been illegally registered in the names of Bishop Nsubuga, Rev Kitaka and Kizito.

COURT RULING

High Court ruling Ndeeba church land
High Court ruling Ndeeba church land
High Court ruling Ndeeba church land

About a year ago, in August 2019, the High Court’s Land Division agreed with the petitioners that the land was fraudulently acquired.

Justice Eudes Keitirima granted an order for vacant possession to the plaintiffs and issued a permanent “restraining the defendant or anybody claiming through them from carrying out any activity on the suit land or alienating the same.”

Counsels for both the plaintiffs and the respondents consented to Keitirima’s ruling.

Lawyer James Nangwala of Nangwala, Rezida and company Advocates signed for the plaintiff.

Ambrose Tebyasa consented for the administrators of the estates of Bishop Nsubuga, Rev Kitaka, and Kizito.

 Nyanzi Kiboneka and Mbabazi Advocates also appended their signature for the registered trustees of the Church of Uganda.

ORDER FOR DEMOLITION

Justice Keiterima granted a request for demolition as sought by Ssemanga, Kajoba, Bulunga and Nakibinge.

The judge, on July 10, ruled that “once a party is declared the rightful owner of the suit premises and is given vacant possession of the same, he or she is at liberty to use the land as she or he wishes.”

He even said the plaintiffs were “at liberty to demolish” the structures they found on the land.  It was based on Keiterima’s ruling that Katongole issued a demolition permit.

And exactly a month since the judge issued the order of demolition, St Peter’s COU church went down – under the cover of the night.

The rubble of the demolished St Peter's Church of Uganda building in Ndeeba
The rubble of the demolished St Peter’s Church of Uganda building in Ndeeba. Courtesy Photo

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