By Marvin Ocol
The Attorney General Kiryowa Kiwanuka has written to Lands Minister Judith Nabakooba over the take-over of Uganda Land Commission management.
In a highly confidential letter dated November 1, 2021, Kiwanuka wrote following Nabakooba’s letter to the Commission officials on October 28, 2021. Nabakooba’s letter was prompted by President Museveni’s letter on October 20, 2021 to the effect that regarding the taking over the powers of the Commission, she may do so in consultation with the Attorney General.
Among other issues that Nabakooba had addressed to the Commission was that they (Chairperson, Members and the Secretary) step aside for two months to pave the way for investigation.
In his letter, however, Kiwanuka reminded Nabakooba that the Secretary to the Commission and is specifically designated or appointed by the President on the advice of the Public Service Commission. Secondly, Kiwanuka noted that the Secretary of the Commission is ULC Accounting Officer and is accountable to Parliament.
“Therefore, for any other person to assume that role, he or she must be legally assigned to execute both the functions of the Secretary and the Accounting Officer. Accordingly, no person shall perform these functions unless they have been legally appointed and or assigned the responsibility, temporarily or otherwise.
According to Kiwanuka, the mandate to hold or manage any land in Uganda which is vested in or acquired by the Government is specifically given to the ULC as constituted under Article 238 (2) of the Constitution. Therefore, he said, “any other person not duly appointed or assigned by the President as Chairperson, member or Secretary of the Uganda Land Commission does not have powers to run the affairs of the Uganda Land Commission. Taking over the duties of ULC by the proposed team means that the team is holding and managing Government land contrary to the provisions of the Constitution and the Land Act. The appointed team will be acting unconstitutionally and therefore, outside the law.”
On the Chairperson, Members and the Secretary to step aside, Kiwanuka said that “the power to temporarily remove the chairperson and members of the Commission for purposes of allowing smooth conduct of investigations as may be required, is only exercisable by the President as the Appointing Authority.”
Accordingly, he advised Nabakooba: “in order for you to take the requisite action, you need written express authorization of the President.”
Secondly, Kiwanuka said that given that the Secretary of the ULC is a public officer, the normal public service procedure for interdiction should apply and that the exercise “must be executed in consultation with the Appointing Authority.”
Finally, Kiwanuka said the handover by the Chairperson of the Uganda Land Commission, Members and Secretary of the Commission to the Minister of State for Land shall be outside the law.
To these, Kiwanuka advised Nabakooba to write to the President with the necessary information attached and ask him to exercise his power and discretion as Appointing Authority against the Chairperson of the Uganda Land Commission, Members and Secretary of the Commission.
Secondly, Kiwanuka tasked Nabakooba to recall her letter to the Chairperson, Members and Secretary of the Commission of the Uganda Land Commission to avoid any legal complications that “may arise from acts or actions not backed by the law.”