High court made its decision on the mailo land question in 1920

Friday April 3 2020

Peter Mulira

Peter Mulira 

By Peter Mulira

We recently saw in this column that all land in Buganda is under the freehold register at the Land Office with the exception of the areas over which are registered under mailo land.
Under the Buganda Agreement of 1900, the area of Buganda was estimated to be 19,600 square miles, which were divided on paper into 8,000 square miles, which were reserved for Africans and 9,000 designated as public land, which were vested in the government.

The agreement also provided that “Should the area of Buganda be established at more than 19,600 square miles, then the surplus shall be divided into two parts, one half will be established among the properties of the Kabaka, the three Regents or native ministers and the abamasaza or county chiefs.”

In a memorandum dated October 13, 1900, it was stated, “When the Special Commissioner allotted 8,000 square miles among private land-owners, it was found in the final distribution that when each person had received full satisfaction of his claim, there still remained over a certain quantity of land undistributed and this land was further divided up in the proportion set forth in the accompanying table and this redistribution has received the Commissioners approval…..”

The table referred to which is dated July 25, 1900 showed that chiefs (abamasaza), 2nd grade chiefs and other sub-chiefs were allotted a total of 1,000 square miles…”
What we learn from above is that it is not true as some academicians have written, that the colonialists took away land from peasants and gave it to collaborative chiefs. Secondly, land in 1900 was not understood in the monetary sense of today; its value was measured in terms of the extent of plantations. The land disputes that arose as a result of this settlement concerned the survey of the chiefs’ land. Since under this subsidiary settlement the chiefs did not previously own under the customary system the land they were allotted, it was inevitable that surveys overrun other people’s plantations as well as clan land.

Led by Daudi Basudde, who in 1928 became the first African millionaire in Pounds in East and Central Africa through his coffee plantations, young Serwano Kulubya, and a clan leader James Miti, the disgruntled landowners, filed a suit in the High Court in Entebbe and also petitioned the Colonial Secretary to seek redress.
The suit was filed by clans after Basudde had travelled to London to seek legal advice was lost in 1920. Following this defeat, the Uganda Herald of October 15, 1926 reported that the Governor addressed a special meeting of the Lukiiko to receive the Colonial Secretary’s decision on the petiton.

The Governor reported that the Secretary appointed a commission in 1924 whose terms of reference were to investigate into and report whether the distribution of land as made by the Lukiiko, was in conformity with the terms of the Buganda Agreement of 1900. The Commission’s report work in the Busuulu and Envujjo Law of 1927, which settled this issue. As a condition precedent for the appointment of the commission, both parties to the dispute agreed to abide by whatever decision reached by the Secretary of State.


Accordingly, energy spent on efforts to resolve the ‘mailo land question’ as a political issue is wasted. According to Article 92 of the Constitution “Parliament shall not pass any law to alter the decision or judgment of any court……” The High court made its decision on the mailo land question in 1920 and the parties to dispute accepted the Colonial Secretary’s decision in 1924 and there is no complainant.