New land law should bar buyers from evicting settled residents

Tuesday February 12 2019


By Festo Kasajja

Prevailing legal regimes in the country have failed to reduce incidences of land conflicts in the country. The problem stems mainly from increasing population, depreciating land fertility, selfish interests by investigators and courts, delayed judicial hearings and judgments, among others. There had been anxiety that the 1998 Land Act would reduce land conflicts in the country, but this has proved otherwise.

In 2004, the World Bank in a report about land conflicts in Africa, pointed out that one of the main reasons underlying the increased incidence of land conflict is the failure of the prevailing land tenure systems to respond to the challenges posed by appreciation of land in a way that would enhance effective tenure security. Thus, providing the basis for higher levels of investment and productivity-enhancing land transfers rather than the dissipation of resources in conflict over land.

Former president Idi Amin in 1975, enacted the Land Reform Decree of 1975, essentially seeking to overhaul the country’s land tenure system. The decree empowered the government to lease any land occupied by customary tenants to any person. That law seemed draconian, but if it were still in force, the endless land feuds we are witnessing today would have been resolved long ago.

Now what the country requires an enactment of a new law that allows buyers to undertake any form of land transactions, that law should bear a provision that bars buyers from evicting existing tenants. Let buyers go ahead with their business, but they should buy land where there are no people. Land is a precious commodity which should be owned communally. What we see today is against God’s creation, which provided ‘Gifts of Nature”.

The new law should have specific clauses targeting corrupt judicial officials, some of whom after receiving kickbacks, issue reckless orders that cause suffering to the masses. The law should also be strict on investigators who take advantage of certain situations. Let the law be harsh on land registrars and surveyors who effect land titling on land which already has a title. There must also be a limit - three months at worst - where courts should handle land-related cases. Short of this, commissions of inquiry into land matters will continue.

The 1995 land law, Article 237 of the Constitution stipulates that all land in Uganda shall vest in the citizens of Uganda and shall be owned in accordance with the following land tenure systems - customary, freehold, mailo, and leasehold.
The law allows using and developing the land for purposeful production.
Festo Kasajja,