The Family Division of the High Court has ruled that the matrimonial home belongs to spouses in a matrimonial marriage and it is the last spouse who can give it away to another person.
Justice Godfrey Namundi recently ruled that it is unlawful to give away a matrimonial home without the consent of a surviving spouse.
The common practice in Uganda has been about husbands giving out their homes to their sons or heirs but letting their widows still live in the houses, most stating that the widows would only stay in the houses “as long as they don’t remarry.”
Namundi’s judgment follows a suit by Herbert Kolya who sued his grandmother Ekiriya Mawemuko Kolya as he was interested in taking over his late grandfather’s Namirembe home and other properties.
The grandfather, Israel Kikomeko Kolya, passed away in 1997 and in his will bequeathed the matrimonial home to his son and heir, Herbert Lukanga Kolya. Kikomeko, however, left instructions that his wife remain in the home as long as she did not remarry. The son also later passed away and that is how the grandson sued the grandmother in his capacity as the new heir to the property.
The widow, Ekiriya had rejected the Will over the question of the matrimonial home prompting the grandson to petition court in 2016, seeking that his grandmother be compelled to provide an account for all the assets of Kikomeko lest the letters of administration granted to her be revoked.
The judge however ruled that it was unlawful for Kikomeko to bequeath the matrimonial home to his heir without the consent of his spouse.
“The plaintiff as an administrator of the estate of the late Lukanga is not entitled to the property at Namirembe since it is matrimonial property,” the judge ruled in favour of the grandmother.
“The matrimonial home passed on to the widow upon death of her husband and she reserves the right to deal with it in any way she deems ﬁt,” Justice Namundi, ruled.
The judgment has been described by human rights activists as landmark in regard to matrimonial property in the country.