Tuesday January 7 2014

Ongoing reforms will eliminate this country’s land problems

By Dennis Obbo

The Lands ministry registered many achievements in 2013. The most important was the approval of the National Land Policy by Cabinet. The country had been waiting for one since 1962! This policy now provides a framework on how land will be managed and used in Uganda for the next 10 - 20 years.
The land policy seeks to introduce fundamental reforms, paving the way for the resolution of the country’s land problems such as illegal evictions, inadequate land use planning, land fragmentation, destruction of ecological systems, land grabbing and encroachment of private and government land, land conflicts and injustices, informal settlements and poor land information management.

The policy also supports and harnesses the spontaneous urbanisation to ensure that the urban development process is executed in a planned and orderly manner as well as avoiding scenarios such as real estates development encroaching on rural agricultural, industrial and ecologically sensitive lands.

A National Land Policy Implementation Committee has developed a one-year interim plan, which will systematically roll out the priority interventions and reforms in the land sector in 2014. Popularising the land policy and producing translated and simplified versions is also high on the agenda.

Many tenants suffered from land evictions without following the proper procedure. As we begin 2014, Ugandans should be reminded of the options which can be used by landlords and tenants to be able to maintain harmony.
A landlord and tenant may mutually agree that the land in which the tenant has interest be sub divided in such portions as the two of them may agree with each one having exclusive occupancy or ownership to the respective portions as they will have agreed with documentary evidence.

Option two allows for the landlord and tenants to become joint proprietors of the land either as joint tenants or as tenants in common. Where they agree to be tenants in common, the shares of each in the land and the terms and conditions are agreed upon.

Option three is okwegula where a landlord who wishes to sell the land in question may give the first option of buying that interest to the tenant. If this doesn’t happen, then the new landlord who takes over the land must recognise the rights and obligations of the existing tenants and cannot evict them.

The beginning of 2013 found the Land Registry closed to allow for improvement in internal efficiency. Six zonal offices were opened to take services nearer to clients in the zonal offices of Jinja, Mukono, KCCA, Wakiso, Masaka, Mbarara. The headquarters for the time being is handling the rest of the country.

The major achievement has been the elimination of the problems associated with missing land records and the availability of online access to the information in the Registry. In the new year, the Lands ministry shall begin to construct zonal offices in Kabale, Luweero, Mityana, Mpigi, Moroto, Rukungiri, Soroti, Mukono and Tororo.

We shall also facilitate the titling and registration of one million private individual land parcels throughout the country and establish Communal Land Associations in northern and eastern Uganda as a means of stopping land grabbing, strengthening land tenure security and promoting more sustainable and productive land use.

We shall also partner with Buganda Land Board and the Bunyoro Kingdom to hold expos where Land owners will again have an opportunity to check their land title details against what is in the computerised system.

Our focus shall be on improving tenure security over individual lands, improving tenure security over communal lands; increasing land access and tenure for the poor and vulnerable; increasing efficiency and transparency in land administration services; developing capacity in land administration; resolving land disputes and managing expropriations; increasing scope and effectiveness of land use planning; improving public land management and strengthening valuation function.

Mr Obbo is the spokesperson, Ministry of Lands, Housing & Urban Development. dennisfo@mlhud.go.ug