Fort Portal, Uganda | By Michael Wandati | The High Court in Fort Portal has issued a ruling allowing the land dispute case involving Beatrice Nyindombi Karanja, the wife of former Kenyan Vice President Dr. Josephat Njuguna, to proceed and be heard on its merits.
Justice Vincent Wagona made the decision after dismissing the preliminary legal points raised by Nyindombi through her legal counsel. Nyindombi had sought to have the fraud case filed against her in 2019 by the late Juma Hussein dismissed on the grounds that it was filed too late.
The late Juma Hussein, a resident of Fort Portal, had accused Nyindombi of encroaching upon a 73-hectare parcel of land, specifically Block 45, Plot 7 in Harugongo Sub County. The roots of this dispute can be traced back to 1990 when Juma fell ill and borrowed 12,000 Kenyan Shillings from Nyindombi for his medical treatment. Documents revealed that Juma’s health did not improve, leading him to request an additional loan of 1,150,000 Ugandan Shillings from Nyindombi in 1997. At that time, Nyindombi was in Kenya, and she sent the money through her brother, Kahwa, who delivered it to Juma.
As part of the loan agreement, Nyindombi asked for the lease title of Juma’s land as collateral, which Juma willingly provided. However, following Juma’s passing, his family members, including Hakim Hussein, Rehema Namara Hussein, Fahmi Hussein Kahuma, Mariam Hussein, Jamila Hussein Karungi, and Aisha Hussein, stepped in as the new claimants.
During the court proceedings, Nyindombi’s attorney, Macdusman Kabega, contended that the case should be dismissed based on the statute of limitations, as it was filed beyond the allowable timeframe. He argued that in cases of fraud, the clock starts ticking from the moment the fraud is discovered or should have been reasonably discovered.
Kabega pointed out that the suit was filed in 2019, a staggering 19 years after the land transfer in 1990. He asserted, “That there is also evidence that the defendant was in possession, and Juma sat on his rights, and thus his claim is caught by the law. That the action by him against the defendant is caught by the law of limitation.”
On the other side of the dispute, the Husseins, represented by their lawyer Richard Bwiruka, contended that Juma had provided Nyindombi with a certificate of title as collateral. In 2010, Nyindombi requested permission to use his land, which he granted.
However, in 2014, Juma claimed that Nyindombi had asked him to sign blank transfer forms under the pretense of addressing encroachment issues, but the title was transferred without his knowledge, consent, or approval.
The alleged fraud came to light in 2019 and fell within the permissible exceptions of the limitation period. In his ruling, Justice Wagona rejected Nyindombi’s arguments, emphasizing that fraud can be pleaded anytime it is discovered. He stated, “My duty at this stage in answering the question of whether a suit is barred by limitation is restricted to a perusal of the plaint and annexure. The dates stated therein and the exception pleaded by the plaintiff.”
Justice Wagona further explained that the cause of action arose in 2019 when the plaintiff discovered the fraud, and the suit was filed in 2019, well within the 12-year limitation period set by the Limitation Act. Consequently, Justice Wagona overruled Kabega’s submissions and directed that the trial of the case should continue on its merits.