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What Attorney General’s Legal Opinion Means for COSASE Report on Departed Asian Assets

Attorney General Kiryowa Kiwanuka last week in his legal review revealed that the recommendations contained in the Parliament’s Commissions, Statutory Authorities, and State Enterprises (Cosase) report, regarding the management of the properties of the departed Asians, cannot be implemented under the current law.

“It was very clear, the recommendations by Cosase that they were asking us to do; were not tenable under the legal regime, especially the cancellation of certificate of title,” Mr Kiryowa said in a telephone interview with local newspaper DailyMonitor.

He added: “I did not render a legal opinion on other Cosase recommendations but if I am asked so, why not but the legal opinion I was asked to render is what I gave.”

On March 22, Mr Kiryowa rendered his legal opinion, following a debate regarding the manner in which the properties of the departed Asians had been managed by the Departed Asians Property Custodian Board (DAPCB), resulting into numerous court cases.

He said his legal opinion followed a request by President Museveni.

“The recommendation of the Cosase sub-committee for Departed Asians Property Custodian Board, to initiate the process for cancellation of repossession certificates acquired and any substitute titles is not capable of implementation in light of the existing case law,” Mr Kiryowa said.

In August 2016, the Auditor General in exercise of his statutory mandate, conducted two special audits on the operations of the DAPCB, which were later handed to Parliament and debated by Cosase. This was after numerous law suits had risen against government with potential of losing huge sums of money in compensation.

The Asians, after their expulsion by then President Idi Amin in the 1970s, left behind properties, which included businesses, stock and real estate.

Following the fall of Idi Amin, the Asians returned and some of them repossessed their properties yet government had fully compensated them.

Another legal opinion

Also in his March 22 legal opinion, Mr Kiryowa advised that once a certificate of repossession has been issued, DAPCB has no mandate whatsoever to deal with such property as it does not have powers to repossess, manage or allocate any property that has been dealt with by the minister.

This, he said was in light of Section 9 (1) d of the Expropriated Properties Act and case law, warning that if carried forward, such action would only increase the number of law suits that are likely to cause substantial financial loss to government.

The chief legal government adviser also observed that once the Finance minister has issued a certificate of repossession, that minister has no power to cancel it even if it had errors.

He went on to clarify that the powers to cancel such a repossession certificate, lies in the hands of the High Court.

The Attorney General said any person aggrieved by the decision made by minister, may within 30 days from the date of communication, appeal to the High Court for determination.

Efforts to reach out to Mr Chris Obore, the director of communication at Parliament, about the AG’s legal opinion were futile as he never answered our repeated phone calls. Likewise, the former chairperson of Cosase in the 10th Parliament, Mr Ibrahim Kasozi, who presided over the debates regarding the departed Asians properties, was unavailable for a comment by press time.

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