Kenyan security expert accused of land grabbing in Uganda
What you need to know:
- Ambrose Wekesa Murunga was arrested and detained by the Commission of Inquiry into Land Matters in Uganda last week in connection with the alleged fraudulent land dealings.
- Mr Murunga is accused of falsifying his nationality to acquire more than 400 acres of land under Mailo tenure in Gayaza Village, Butuntumula sub-county in Luwero District, in contravention of the Constitution and the Land Act.
- He is further accused of being in possession of a land title which was fraudulently procured in connivance with the land registrars at Bukalasa land registration office in Luweero district.
- Mr Murunga is also accused of criminalising, arresting and detaining residents he found on the land with a view to evicting them from the land they occupied for decades.
A Kenyan security expert who controversially became one of the most powerful people in Uganda’s police force is facing charges of land grabbing and forceful evictions in Luweero district on the outskirts of Kampala.
Ambrose Wekesa Murunga, who also served as a technical advisor to Inspector General of Ugandan police Gen Kale Kayihura, was arrested and detained by the Commission of Inquiry into Land Matters in Uganda last week in connection with the alleged fraudulent land dealings.
He has since been released on a police bond pending further hearings.
Mr Murunga, who records show is a Kenyan citizen born in Trans Nzoia County, is accused of falsifying his nationality to acquire more than 400 acres of land under Mailo tenure (a land ownership system in Uganda) in Gayaza Village, Butuntumula sub-county in Luwero District, in contravention of the Constitution and the Land Act.
Evidence before the commission headed by Justice Catherine Bamugemereire alleges that Mr Murunga forged his birth certificate, dodged paying government taxes, and holds large tracts of land in the neighbouring country despite being a foreigner with no valid work permit.
He is further accused of being in possession of a land title which was fraudulently procured in connivance with the land registrars at Bukalasa land registration office in Luweero district.
Mr Murunga is also accused of criminalising, arresting and detaining residents he found on the land with a view to evicting them from the land they occupied for decades.
“Is it not true that you were going to use your office and you were going to use all means to ensure that people leave that land and you get vacant possession?
Is not true that you actually abused the office because you must have been working for somebody that you have not told us and because of the nature of your evidence you will have to tell us…?” Mr Murunga was quizzed by Justice Bamugemereire who later handed him over to investigators for further grilling.
“You actually abused your office, used our police officers to go and terrorise those citizens who had been lawfully, quietly and peacefully living on their land.
We would like to know the land officers you were working with and the big people you are working for or helping you to do that,” the judge declared.
The evidence shows that Mr Murunga falsified his particulars to acquire interests on land measuring more than 430 acres before subjecting more than 200 occupants to arrests and detention in police custody.
Witnesses told the commission that the land office at Bukalasa in Luwero district offered Mr Murunga another 120 acres of land in the same area without certified documents which led to untold suffering of people.
EXPIRED WORK PERMIT
Mr Murunga, a former Nation columnist, holds a Kenyan passport but has allegedly been living in Uganda on an expired work permit.
He is accused of abuse of office for working in cahoots with top Ugandan government officials to traumatise hundreds of people in Luweero whom he allegedly criminalised, arrested and detained using police officers in the area.
Appearing before the commission early this month, Mr Murunga said there was a conflict with the people he found occupying the land due to fraudulent transfers perpetrated by the seller, Ms Rose Nalutaaya, who is now deceased.
It is alleged that Ms Nalutaaya sold to Mr Murunga the disputed land at USh132 million but the transfers were not signed and no photographs of the seller were provided as required by law.
Mr Murunga was quizzed on how he acquired the land titles without getting the photographs of the seller and false declaration of his nationality.
The commission also ordered the detention of Mr Raymond Jjagwe, an assistant superintendent of police in Luweero, who was accused of facilitating arrests and torture of the residents.
“People have been in and out of prison because of Mr Murunga and they have suffered at the hands of wrong people in government offices,” Justice Bamugemereire said.
Accused of arresting, detaining and torture of women to compel their husbands to appear before Mr Murunga for action, Mr Jjagwe claimed that fears of eviction and torture by the people are unfounded.
Ms Madina Nabukeera, a registrar of titles who approved the entries, said Mr Murunga’s registration on the two titles will be cancelled to enable the occupants to use their land freely.
Asked how he came to live in Uganda, Mr Murunga, who described himself as a security expert, maintained that he had relatives in Uganda. ‘My wife, too, was Ugandan, but importantly I was asked by the government to come and work here.”
“I was head hunted by the late Brig Noble Mayombo to come and work for government. It was 2005/2006 that the late (Mayombo) came directly to meet me and my company got a contract with the government of Uganda and I was seconded to work here,” he said.
He told the commission that he is a qualified lawyer from Kings College London but is currently a farmer growing bananas and coffee in Kiboga and Luwero.
Tasked to explain the particulars of the land he owns in Luwero, Mr Murunga revealed that while looking for land for agriculture in 2009, he used brokers to access it.
He told the commission that his late mother who was a Ugandan national had property in Lugazi and Jinja.
Mr Murunga claimed that he was born at Mulago Hospital in Kampala but documents including his passport showed he was born in Trans Nzoia in Kenya where his father lives to date.
“With the Ugandan birth certificate, I couldn’t be given a Kenyan passport at that time.
The Kenyan government insisted that I had to get a Kenyan birth certificate in order to get a Kenyan passport,” he argued while maintaining that he holds two birth certificates which are both valid.
“I have children here who have two birth certificates, one Ugandan and one Kenyan because they were born in Uganda and got birth certificates which were converted in Kenya for them to get Kenyan passports and both of them are valid.”
Media reports indicate that Mr Murunga was hired as a technical advisor to Inspector General of Uganda Police Gen Kale Kayihura in 2004 in unclear circumstances.
According to the reports, Mr Murunga served as a policeman in Kenya and was a newspaper columnist before moving to Uganda.
In April 2013, the Uganda Police Force declined to renew Mr Murunga’s contract after it expired with the Ugandan police boss stating that he did not want to be associated with “controversial things.”
During his time in the Uganda police force, Mr Murunga is said to have wielded a lot of influence such as determining who would be deployed where including directors of police.
Gen Kayihura claims that Mr Murunga was introduced to him by former Ministry of Defence Permanent Secretary, Brigadier Noble Mayombo, who died in May 2007.
It is alleged that Mayombo met Mr Murunga through Els De Temmerman, the former editor-in-chief of The New Vision, when she was operating an NGO in Gulu district.
Mr Murunga was reportedly in Gulu to investigate a story on the activities of Joseph Kony, the elusive Lord’s Resistance Army rebel leader. Prior to Mr Murunga’s recruitment, Gen Kayihura had asked President Yoweri Museveni to hire a technical advisor to the IGP’s office.
Mr Murunga said that he was seconded to Uganda Police Force as a technical advisor by Corporate Technical Service Limited, a company based in Nairobi after the post was advertised.
Despite being employed by Uganda Police Force, Mr Murunga had no work permit, a requirement for all foreign nationals in gainful employment in Uganda.
During his nine years of service in the Uganda Police, Mr Murunga was a common sight around major police operations.
Mr Murunga is known to drive around in a bullet proof BMW and a Range Rover.
-Additional reporting by Jalira Namyalo