Commentary

Here is a good option to end land evictions in Uganda

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By Alozius Gonza

Posted  Monday, July 8  2013 at  01:00

In Summary

There is already a thriving informal land market in these areas but the benefits of creating a formal land market cannot be overstated. It goes without saying that subsequent subdivisions and transfers would attract revenue for the government.

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I wish to add to the various proposals on stopping land evictions in Uganda, including the most recent by Kintu Nyago. If implemented, these suggestions would go a long way in bringing an end to land evictions.

My proposal is a programme through which leasehold land titles can be processed and given to the tenants to secure their tenure on the land. Leasehold tenure is a form of tenure whereby one party grants to another the right to exclusive possession of land for a specified period, usually in exchange for the payment of rent.

In this arrangement, the landlord can remain with the perpetual (mailo) interest in the land while the government can facilitate the tenants to acquire leasehold interests on the same piece of land. In so doing, the rights of the tenants can be secured at least for the foreseeable future.

This lease, which is a legal estate can smoothly facilitate a market transaction in the land on the open market since an important component of tenure security is the confidence with which one can transact (lend, sell or sublease) in land. There is already a thriving informal land market in these areas but the benefits of creating a formal land market cannot be overstated. It goes without saying that subsequent subdivisions and transfers would attract revenue for the government.

At the same time, the legal estate (leasehold) interest created would go a long way in helping the tenants to access the much needed financial credit from various lending institutions for personal and business development. Again this borders well with the NRM manifesto of economic prosperity for all.

The question at this point is perhaps how these leaseholds would be created in the first place.
To begin with, it would require a survey of the land in question to clearly demarcate the boundaries of the varying interests in the land. The most economic approach to this survey would be a systematic demarcation.

Systematic demarcation is a process by which land rights of people living in a given area are identified, ascertained, established and marked in an orderly and uniform way. Advantages of this approach are that it is cheaper and more cost effective than demarcation on demand (sporadic demarcation) and it is pro-poor in that once an area is selected, all rights, including those of people who would not ordinarily be able to afford the service, are subject to demarcation.

Since systematic demarcation is all inclusive and calls for wider participation/involvement, the nature of participation would imply wider publicity, more transparency and prompt public dispute resolution for all tenants at the time of data capture.

The second and perhaps most important aspect would be the interest created in the produced surveyed lands.

Previous valuations made by the Chief Government Valuer for compulsory acquisitions of land when undertaking compensation projects by the government have in many cases given the landlord a 40 per cent compensation for the market value of the land and a 60 per cent compensation to the tenants in the same piece of the land (value of the developments being attributed to the tenant only). If we were to follow the same principle, the government could actually pay off the landlord by paying 40 per cent of the value of the land.

Another approach and one that would most likely be welcomed by the landlord is payment of a premium of about 5 – 10 per cent of the value of the land to the landlord and thereafter a peppercorn ground rent (or ground rent between 5-10 per cent depending on the negotiation outcomes between the tenants and the landlord) for the term of the lease.

The sitting tenant would have automatic renewal rights upon expiration of the lease term. Such other conditions governing this lease agreement would be agreed as the surrounding circumstances permit from one community to another.

And with a land fund created by the government and accessible through commercial banks at a relatively low interest rate, the titles created can be given to the various tenants after payment for the title.

Success for this approach requires sensitisation of both the landlords and the tenants about the benefits of this arrangement. Defining a long term solution to land evictions is necessary to avert its effects to the population and Mother Nature.

Mr Gonza is a land economist and associate member of Institution of Surveyors of Uganda. gonzaalozius@yahoo.co.uk