By Najib Mulema
A move by Uganda government to amend article 26 of the 1995 constitution which calls for compulsory land acquisition has infuriated a wide section of Ugandans including politicians, civil societies and the general public who perceive it as a ‘broad day theft’ by government officials.
Religious leaders under their umbrella body, the Inter- Religious Council of Uganda (IRCU) have ALSO added their voice on the unheard outcry of the oppressed Ugandans to oppose government’s move aimed at rendering the poor people homeless.
Addressing the media at their headquarters on Friday in Kampala, religious leaders advised government not to move ahead with the law that infringes on the citizens’ rights to land ownership.
Pastor Daniel Matte, the Archbishop of the Seventh Day Adventist noted that as religious leaders also citizens of Uganda, they are unduly concerned over the proposed bill touching one of the most highly emotive issue-land citing that they have a twin mandate to air out their views especially on behalf of the weak, poor and vulnerable people in the society.
According to Pr. Matte, the uncalled for amendment of the law is likely to plunge the country into political and constitutional instability.
“We submit that any further uncalled- for amendment of the law is likely to plunge the country into ‘political and constitutional instability’, foretold by the framers of the constitution (1995),” said Pr. Matte.
He stated that government claims to draw the proposed land amendment approach from countries like Ghana, Kenya and India yet for all the three countries, they guarantees prompt payment of compensation to the affected land owners thus stating that the cited examples differ with Uganda’s proposed amendment.
“The proponents of the proposed land amendment claim that they draw their approach from countries like Ghana, India and Kenya. However, Article 18 (1) of the 1992 Constitution of Ghana guarantees the prompt payment of compensation; and the Draft Indian National Acquisition and Rehabilitation and Resettlement Bill asserts that land acquisition must take place in a manner that fully protects the interests of landowners and also those whose livelihood depend on the land,” noted Pr. Matte.
“Emphasize that article 26 in its current form, is good enough to help government acquire land taking into account the interest of the land owner without violating any party’s rights,” he added.
On the other hand, Msgr Charles Kasibante, the IRCU Board Chairperson expressed concern that they appreciate the fact that government wants land for capital development, but the proposed method of acquisition violates the rights of Ugandans for whom the developments are intended.
“It is noteworthy that the hurdles government might be encountering in pursuit of infrastructural development are a consequence of bureaucratic and administrative inefficiencies and encumbrances. It is hardly due to loopholes in the existing laws,” said Msgr Kasibante.
He further revealed that they are going to use religious centres such as Churches and Mosques to sabotage government’s unfavorable land amendment bill adding that they are in their final stages of appearing before Justice Catherine Bamugemereire’s land probe committee to provide their position on the current land issue.