On 8 December, 2016 the President of Uganda appointed a Commission of Inquiry into the Effectiveness of the Law, Policies and Processes of Land Acquisition, Land Administration, Land Management and Land Registration in Uganda (the Commission) headed by Hon. Lady Catherine Bamugemereire. The Commission is required to make recommendations for improving the efficiency and effectiveness of the law, policies, and processes of land acquisition, land administration, land management, land registration in Uganda and proposing necessary reforms.
The Kingdom of Buganda which, through the Kabaka of Buganda, is vested with constitutional rights and interests in land wishes to submit its views and recommendations to the Commission not only to ensure that past wrongs are remedied but also to ensure that its and its people’s native rights and interests in land are protected under the law.
The kingdom’s views derive from both a historical and contemporary context of land allocation, land tenure and management in Buganda before and after Uganda’s independence. In summary, the Kingdom’s principal concerns on land cover five major areas namely:
(i) The proposal to abolish the mailo land tenure and to fuse it with other tenures into a single tenure contrary to Article 237 of the constitution raises suspicion in the Kingdom and general public concern that the Commission was essentially established to target land tenure in Buganda and to ultimately abolish mailo land tenure in Buganda in a manner similar to what previous regimes have attempted to do, in direct and deliberate affront to the people in Buganda.
(ii) The proposal to introduce a new regime for the compulsory acquisition of land contrary to Article 26 and 237 of the Constitution in a manner that mostly de enfranchises land owners in Buganda which constitutes the most sought after land for commercial and public interests on account of the fact that it lies at the heart of the country’s transport system, public administration, business and commerce.
(iii) The delay in effecting the complete return of and/or compensation for expropriated land to the Kingdom of Buganda contrary to Article 26 of the Constitution, the Traditional Rulers (Restitution of Assets and Properties) Act of 1993 and the Agreement on the return of certain assets between the Government of Uganda and the Kabaka of Buganda of 2013.
(iv) The need to reform land laws – in particular the Land Act of 1998 (as amended) – that perpetuate unfair laws between landlords, tenants and other occupants on land so as to improve land argument and administration as well as introduce effective and quick dispute resolution mechanisms across the country.
(v) The need to address factors that are responsible for or that contribute to the rampant land grabbing and the overall crisis in the land sector in Uganda. These factors include institutional weaknesses in entities relevant to the law and order sector as well as the land sector in general. These institutions include the Ministry of Lands and the District Land Boards, the Uganda Police Force, the Directorate of Public Prosecutions and the Judiciary. Because of the institutional weaknesses these bodies delay, neglect and/or fail to investigate and prosecute land related crimes in a timely and judicious manner. To these weaknesses is added the runaway corruption in government institutions with responsibility over land; a compromised, slow and sometimes unfair judicial process in the resolution of land matters; increased pressure on land resulting from an increased population and demand for land; undue politicization of and interference in land administration and a lack of a comprehensive and consultative process aimed at land reform.
Other factors that affect the Land sector:
Beside the above we believe that the following problems are responsible for the crisis in the land sector and that unless they are addressed the crisis will persist. The factors are:
(i) Weaknesses in institutions relevant to the law and order sector as well as the land sector in general. These institutions include the Ministry of Lands and the District Land Boards, the Uganda Police Force, the Directorate of Public Prosecutions. Because of the institutional weaknesses inherent in these bodies there are delays and frustrations in the investigation and prosecution of land related crimes in a timely and judicious manner.
(ii) Corruption in government institutions with responsibility over land.
(iii) A compromised, slow and sometimes unfair judicial process in the resolution of land disputes.
(iv) Increased pressure on land resulting from an increased population and demand for land.
(v) Undue politicization and the creation of multiple layers of authority within the Government structures that often interference and cause confusion land administration. Land matters are concurrently handled by officials in the President’s office, the Police, the District Resident District Commissioners, Uganda Land Commission, District Land Boards, District Chairpersons, the Ministry of Lands and the courts. There is no doubt that the multiplicity of center’s that handle land maters and disputes has contributed greatly to the crisis within Uganda’s land sector.
(vi) A lack of a comprehensive and consultative process aimed at land reform. Land Laws are often passed in a piecemeal or fashion and without due consultations of all stake holders. The land Act and all amendments thereof are a case in point. Because of this there is apathy and a resistance to comply with laws that are regarded as unfair and discriminatory.
In view of the foregoing, the Kingdom of Buganda makes the following recommendations:
(i) That the Commission abandons the proposal to abolish the mailo land tenure or to fuse it with other tenures into a single tenure.
(ii) That the Government should capitalize and use Land Fund to liberate landless groups and remove the duplicity of ownership on Mailo land. We thus support the Commission’s recommendation that The Land Fund be purposefully capitalized and restructured to work effectively. We add that the Fund should be utilized in a transparent and in an indiscriminative manner. It should also be used on the basis of a willing seller willing buyer as well as on the principles of fair and prompt compensation pursuant to S. 41(6) of the Land Act.
(iii) That the Government drops the proposed amendment on compulsory acquisition of individually owned land before adequate compensation to facilitate government projects. We support the idea for the establishment of a special land tribunal for the quick determination of disputes arising from valuation of project affected persons. Such a court or tribunal may be tasked to complete its work within a short period of time.
(iv) That the Government expedites the complete return of expropriated land to the Kingdom of Buganda pursuant to Article 26 of the Constitution, the Traditional Rulers (Restitution of Assets and Properties) Act of 1993 and the Agreement on the return of certain assets between The Government of Uganda and the Kabaka of Buganda of 2013.
(v) That the Government holistically reviews and revises the Land Act to improve land management and administration as well as introduce effective and quick lands dispute resolution mechanisms across the country. In this connection we support the Commission’s interim recommendation that the District Land Tribunals should be reestablished as a full time dispute resolution mechanism with and expanded membership. Additionally, we recommend that the Government ensures that the Land Division of the High Court should get more judges to make timely judgments and clear case backlog.
(vi) That the Government addresses the factors we have out lined above that contribute greatly to the crisis within Uganda’s land sector.
(vii) That a federal system of Government be reinstated so that each area in Uganda can manage, control, protect and promote the planned utilization of it’s in a manner that is consistent with its peculiarities and development aspirations.
DATED at Kampala this 25th day of April, 2018.
CHARLES PETER MAYIGA