Land directive an abuse of the law
Posted Friday, March 1 2013 at 02:00
He is not the court and should not be seen to be acting as an extension of the judiciary.
President Museveni this week banned the eviction of peasants who might be squatting on land owned by other people. The President argued that the move was meant to protect the poor and defenceless from the predatory ways of those with money and influence.
Mr Museveni argued that while some of the said peasants might have sold their land on a “willing-buyer, willing-seller” basis, some of them could have received poor offers which ought to be investigated.
However noble his intentions might be, Mr Museveni is treading on very slippery ground. Societies revolve around agreed-upon rules and their enforcement, including the law on contract. When two parties that are empowered agree to a transaction out of their free will the understanding is that both parties will discharge their responsibilities. School will teach, bakers will bake, power companies will deliver power, and so on.
Thus people who have willingly sold their land cannot, having spent the money they received for it, turn up and ask for more money. Worse, they cannot then seek to continue occupying or enjoying the possession of the same land that they sold off, as is the case in some of the recently publicised land wrangles.
Both the legal principle and the political premise are wrong. Legally, contracts should be binding on either party as long as the responsibilities are fully discharged and any disputes ought to be resolved through the courts, not through political proclamations. The Land Act is fairly clear on resolving such disputes.
Politically, there are points for the President to score by siding with the majority peasants but he is promoting a culture of impunity and a lack of respect for the very rules he swears to protect.
The Constitution gives the President a lot of power but it does not give him the right to interfere in the private affairs of citizens, including private commercial transactions. He is not the court and should not be seen to be acting as an extension of the judiciary.
Government has several grand plans to help peasants eke more out of their land in order for them to raise their income and advance their livelihoods. The President is best advised to spend more time on implementing those programmes, less on diktats that are neither reasonable nor enforceable.