Friday June 22 2018

Buganda land question: How did the kingdom walk into this gridlock?

Buganda Kingdom prime minister Charles Peter Mayiga

In defence. Buganda Kingdom prime minister Charles Peter Mayiga (second left), with his deputy Apollo Makubuya (left) consult land probe officials during the proceedings on April 25. FILE PHOTO 

By James Kabengwa

Buganda Kingdom premier Charles Peter Mayiga recently appeared before the Commission of Inquiry into Land Matters in the country headed by Justice Catherine Bamugemereire to present Buganda’s position on land issues. This followed proposals, in the Commissions’ draft report, on land tenure in Uganda that did not go down well with the kingdom administration at Mengo. But what do opinion leaders and kingdom officials say about issues regarding land tenure in Buganda?

In February, the Commission submitted an interim report to President Museveni in which they proposed fusing Mailo and freehold land tenures into one. This would, if adopted, reduce the current land tenure systems from four to three, namely freehold, customary and leasehold.
This recommendation drew sharp resistance from the kingdom of Buganda. In 2016, Lands minister Betty Amongi had said the Mailo land tenure was an unfair way of land acquisition introduced by the 1900 colonial agreement between the British administrators and Buganda Kingdom and that she would engage the Buganda Land Board over the matter.

Land tenure in Buganda
Before the 1900 Buganda agreement, all land in Buganda was under the king. He managed it through the clan heads that were scattered around the 18 kingdom counties.
Places such as Bbira on Mityana Road (Busiro County), all land there belonged to the Nkima Clan while villages such as Katende on Masaka Road (Mawokota) was managed by the Olugave Clan. Lwadda in Mutugga currently in Wakiso District belonged to Mpologoma Clan.
The informal set up for land management was in four clusters; clan land, rights of the king and his chiefs, individual hereditary rights and peasants’ occupation rights.

Such arrangement fostered harmony and development in the kingdom, according to Mr Martin Kasekende, the Buganda Kingdom minister for lands, agriculture and environment.
The 1900 Agreement created private ownership of land (private Mailo titles) and official land. A scenario where Private Mailo land owners reserve rights to sell or lease it at will started at this point.

The official Mailo was also created and the monarch as an institution was allocated 350 square miles of land while the office of the Namasole (mother of the king) was given 10 square miles. Other offices that benefitted from the new colonial arrangement include the office of the Katikkiro (Premier); Nnalinya Lubuga (a co-heir who accompanies a king during coronation); the treasury; the attorney general; the county and sub-county chiefs.
“Today, all land in that category is being managed by the Buganda Land Board (BLB) and is only offered on leases. But there is another 9,000 square miles that was reserved for the future generations,” Mr Kasekende says.

The 9,000 square miles is spread all over the 18 former counties that form Buganda Kingdom. Since the 1900 Agreement, the 9,000 square miles have changed names from crown/queen land to protectorate land and consequently public land after the 1966 conflict between the Buganda King (Kabaka) and the central government subsequent of which government seized all land and abolished all kingdoms in Uganda.
Today such land, although some of it has been returned to Buganda, is under the central government under the Uganda Land Commission and the district land boards.

President Idd Amin’s 1975 land reform decrees abolished private ownership of land and whoever owned a private Mailo title then was offered a 99-year lease and all private Mailo titles were registered as government properties.
Amin’s decree preceded Milton Obote’s seizure of kingdom properties and the 1967 Constitution Article 108 provided that all kingdom land was to be managed by the Uganda Land Commission.

In 1993, government through the Traditional Rulers Restitution of Assets and Properties Act, restored kingdoms and other cultural institutions. Under the Act, Bulange the seat of Buganda Kingdom at Mengo palace, a building that houses Mwanga II court on Kabakanjagala Road, Nalinya’s House at Lubaga, Butikiro, the tombs and Kabaka’s 350 Mailo land were returned to the kingdom.

In 2013, through a Memorandum of Understanding between the Kabaka Ronald Muwenda Mutebi and President Museveni at State House Entebbe, more properties were returned to the kingdom. These included land that houses most of the government administrative offices in Buganda, which include district headquarters and sub-counties, town councils and municipalities.
Land in Buganda is regarded as a commodity, which forms the culture and norms of the people. Each of the 52 clans of Baganda has its own ancestral land. The title of Ssabattaka (chief land lord) that is given to the Kabaka before he is crowned king has to do with land.

What constitutes Kabaka Land?
Kibuga Block that includes most of land in Kampala and neighbouring areas; Kiboga, Mityana, Mubende, Mpigi, Luweero, Nansana, Mukono, and Buikwe District.

Under the Land Act, Kabaka’s land is subject to the same laws that govern mailo land ownership. According to Sections 31 and 32, security of tenure in kibanja (rented land) is vested in payment of busuulu rather than acquisition of “leasehold titles”. A lawful or bonafide occupant cannot be evicted except for non-payment of rent. As long as one pays rent, whether he does any other thing not agreeable to the landlord (save for selling without authority), is safe on the land.

According to Buganda’s deputy minister for local government, Mr Joseph Kawuki, before 1900, the Kabaka was the custodian of Buganda land and people lived freely on it. It was manned through his chiefs to ensure Kabaka’s subjects use and preserve it productivity.
However the 1900 Buganda Agreement changed the status quo. The colonialists introduced a new form of land tenure and distributed it among different offices and persons: Kabaka’s office and not his person was granted 350 square miles. Another cluster of land measuring 8 square miles for each was allocated to the offices of Katikkiro (premier); Mulamuzi (chief Justice); Muwanika (treasurer), Namasole and county. 49 acres were also given out to each Ggombolola (sub-county).

“Even some Ggombolola chiefs acquired personal land. The Bataka ba Bbika (clan leaders) also got official land for their clans. Some also got personal land. Land in this category totalled to 8,000sq.miles,” Mr Kawuki says. According to Mr Kawuki, 1,500 square miles was preserved for forests and wetlands under the custodianship of the Kabaka.

He says 9,000 square miles was regarded as Crown Land and put under the protectorate government of the British colonialists.
“This was a preserve of Baganda who never shared the land and those to be born in future. This land was under communal tenure system. This land was returned to Kabaka on October 8, 1962, the day Buganda regained independence, as a kingdom, from the British,” he says.

The land for Kabaka as an institution is communal for all people of Buganda; and other land belongs to Kabaka Mutebi II as private property.
Kabaka’s land comprises former Buganda Kingdom markets, former administrative headquarters of countries and sub-counties, which are now seats for districts or municipalities, Bassekabaka’s (former kings) tombs, Buganda Works Building at Kakeeka and Basiima House among many others.
Under the 1900 Buganda Agreement, all land in Buganda was divided into two; Crown land, under the control of the colonial government, and Mailo land. Mailo land was further divided into two; land given to office holders and the other given to private individuals.

Kabaka as a person was allocated 27 miles and much of this was distributed by King Daudi Chwa to his descendants. The institution of Kabaka was given 350 square miles. Much of this land, though located all over Buganda, is mostly in the counties of Kyaggwe, Busiro and Kyaddondo.
Most of Kabaka’s land is in Kyaggwe County that covers most of Mukono District with an estimated acreage of 60 square miles. Kyaddondo, which partly covers Kampala (20 square miles) and Wakiso has more than 35 square miles.

However, Amin’s 1975 Land Reform Decree declared all land in Uganda as public land. The 1995 Constitution provided that all land belonged to the citizens of Uganda under four tenure systems; Mailo, freehold, customary and leasehold.
The 1995 Constitution also created District Land Boards whose functions include holding and allocating land in districts, which is not owned by any person or authority. Most of Buganda’s land was reverted to either customary land and or private freehold land without the consent of the people concerned or without due compensation.

Kingdom under criticism
Prof Badru Kateregga, a prominent official at Mengo, says greed for money by the youth on the Buganda Land Board (BLB) has bred defiance against Kabaka’s authority to preserve ancestral and other land.
“Land is the pillar of the kingdom. It’s our origin in Buganda and it is where we are buried. If land is under threat, all Baganda are threatened,” said the head of Mpologoma Clan, Mr John Patrick Kisekka.
Mid-March this year, Mpologoma Clan’s ancestral land in Lwadda-Matugga in Wakiso District was partitioned for sale by Njovu Property Dealers after clearance from the BLB. Many schools and health centres have lost land the same way.

Kyapa mu Ngalo
In April 2017, Mr Mayiga launched the mass issuance of land titles to occupants of Kabaka’s land. Noncommercial land users whose projects don’t exceed $10m worth would acquire leases for not more than 49 years yet bigger investors could get up to 75 years and 99 years.
Mr Mayiga says registering for the leases defines ownership on the given land while clear demarcations mitigate land wrangles and ease access to loans.

BLB has consistently claimed that a certificate of title is a “condition” for approval of any building and quotes section 3 of the Physical Planning Act 2010, which declares the whole country as a planning area.
However, advocate Lawbert Ssenfuka disagrees with the claim.
“The Physical planning Act does not require a certificate of title whether in free, Mailo or leasehold as a prerequisite for approval of building plans, otherwise all buildings on Kabaka’s land, Bibanja, land held under customary law such as in western and northern Uganda would be illegal,” Mr Ssenfuka says.

He says that under Section 34 of the Act, what is required for approval of a plan is proof of ownership. This ownership could be under customary, freehold, lease hold or Mailo.
He is opposed to the Kyapa mu Ngalo scheme where Buganda Kingdom intends to issue 49-year leasehold titles to people occupying Kabaka’s land.
“Some families have lived on Kabaka’s land for more than a hundred years and the pieces they occupy hold their ancestral burial grounds, their memories and history. Imagine what would happen if after conversion to lease hold, the kingdom fails to renew the lease after 49 years. Will this family ever trust or pay allegiance to Mengo?” Ssenfunka wonders.

“Have you ever imagined that all high class personalities or at least the majority who attend Buganda functions are either politicians or those invited by cards and they don’t exceed a quarter of the total kingdom population? The majority of peasants neither have invitation cards nor harbour political ambitions thus their security of tenure must be handled with care if the kingdom is to see the next generation,” he says.
He says the security of tenure of Buganda’s people should not be subjected to a limited period but Buganda Kingdom land should be guaranteed for infinity.

“If Kabaka as an institution is holding this land on behalf of its people, it is not only morally wrong but also a betrayal to lease the same land to its population. Although Buganda needs revenue, it should not raise it at the detriment of its subjects’ security of tenure. Buganda can exist without physical money but it cannot exist even for a day without the trust of its people,” Mr Ssenfuka argues.

Regularising tenancy on Kabaka’s land
The BLB deputy spokesperson, Mr John Mark Golooba, says an applicant presents authentic ownership documents for his or her land including a sketch map of direction to that land. The applicant pays Shs1.6m to the bank to register, verify and survey his/her kibanja (land).
The applicant must acquire a registration form from any of the kingdom branches and attach passport photos. Land is thereafter surveyed and the applicant waits for his/her lease title.

Key issues
Under the 1900 Buganda Agreement, all land in Buganda was divided into two; Crown land, under the control of the colonial government, and Mailo land. Mailo land was further divided into two; land given to office holders and the other given to private individuals.
Kabaka as a person was allocated 27 miles and much of this was distributed by King Daudi Chwa to his descendants.

The institution of Kabaka was given 350 square miles. Much of this land, though located all over Buganda, is mostly in the counties of Kyaggwe, Busiro and Kyaddondo.
Most of Kabaka’s land is in Kyaggwe County that covers most of Mukono District with an estimated acreage of 60 square miles. Kyaddondo, which partly covers Kampala (20 square miles) and Wakiso has more than 35 square miles.

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