Govt sets new terms for land registration

A lady checks out the features on the land title. Photo/File

What you need to know:

  • Mr James Arinaitwe, the chief executive officer of Posta Uganda, says only 90,000 Ugandans in a country of 45 million own physical postal addresses while 1.2 million have electronic-postal address (e-addresses).

Existing and prospective land owners in Uganda must obtain a postal address linked to their particulars on National Identity cards or passports, the government has said.

In a public statement issued in the New Vision on November 27, Mr Baker Mugaino, the acting commissioner Land Registration, noted that only verifiable mobile phone numbers of owners will be entered on the register.

The changes, he noted, are in fulfillment of an October 2023 Court of Appeal judgment in which judges decided that a postal address is the “only recognised way” for the Commissioner Land Registration to serve persons with interests on any piece of land on the register.

The decision arose from the case of Mukiibi and Anor versus Commissioner Land Registration (Civil Appeal No.113 of 2020 [2023] UGCA 268), and aims to ensure communication regarding transactions on reaches registered owners to eliminate fraud.    

In a follow up interview with Monitor, Acting Commissioner Mugaino said brokers mandated by owners use own telephone contacts while registering land and as a result end up possessing information and official communication from the Lands minister meant for the land owner.

It is such details, he said, the brokers use to connive with others to alter details on a registered land or sell it without knowledge of the actual land owner, a transaction fraud they want to stem. 

“As the ministry of Lands,  we are starting with bridging that communication gap and ensuring that we directly deal with the land owner because we have found out that brokers are the one receiving information instead of the owners because during registration they (brokers) use their own telephone contacts,” Mr Mugaino said.

Under the new rules, all land owners are to update their postal addresses or acquire one if they don’t have it, and match it with e-mail addresses, verified telephone contacts and National Identification Numbers (NIN) on National Identity Cards or passport particulars.

“That is why we are saying all registered proprietors who have changed their addresses update their postal addresses on the [land] register for purposes of effective service,” the public notice issued yesterday reads in part.

Uganda Law Society (ULS), the national umbrella body of lawyers in the country which advises the government on legal matters, welcomed the proposals with caution, suggesting that the government embrace technology to convey land transaction information instead of relying on physical postal offices.

“While that may be the recognised way by the law and the courts, it is important for the Ministry [of Lands] to understand the challenges of postal service in Uganda in terms of its efficiency and effectiveness,” Mr Bernard Oundo, the Society president, said last evening.

He argued that Section 202 of the Registration of Titles Act on which the judges relied requires to be amended “to allow for [official] service [on land matters] through emails and the other modern methods of communication”. 
Section 202(1) provides that “any notice under this Act may be served or given by letter posted to the person concerned at his or her address for service or, if he or she has no address for service within the meaning of this section, at his or her last known place of abode”. 
ULS’s Oundo said courts in Uganda have already recognised the service of the court process by electronic (e)-mail and “I see no reason why the Land Registry shouldn’t in addition share these notices on email or on WhatsApp”. 
“Land is a sensitive matter, he noted, “we must ensure that registered proprietors receive the necessary information in a timely and efficient manner.”
According to Mr James Arinaitwe, the chief executive officer of Posta Uganda, only 90,000 Ugandans in a country of 45 million own physical postal addresses while 1.2 million have electronic-postal address (e-addresses).

A 2015 Transaction Procedure series document by the Ministry of Lands indicates that there are an estimated 20 million customary land owners and bona fide occupants (tenants), whose interest in land is recognised under the law.

Overall, registered land owners in the country number about 600,000, according to the document.

Whereas Uganda Law Society proposed adoption of technology to streamline land-related communication, other lawyers this newspaper spoke to, tasked the commissioner for land registration, in lie with the legal provisions, to stick to traditional physical postal addresses, not the current digital one.

A digital post office is one where an applicant is issued a number, but they log in and transaction postal businesses on their mobile phone- handsets, with the post office staff picking or dropping off deliveries at convenience. 

Mr Elias Nalukoola of Nalukoola & Co. Advocates, who has handled multiple land-related cases, said the law mandates the commissioner to use the physical postal address because the digital era was not thought about during its enactment.

“The role of the Judiciary is to interpret the law the way it is because by the time this law was enacted, we had the physical postal address and no one knew that we [would] have these present communication channels and no one has ever sat down to make necessary amendments,” he said.

In a rejoinder, Acting Land Registration Commissioner Mugaino said the Registration of Titles Act gives him power to use any channel of communication.

“We have gone digital. As I speak, the Land Registry is digital. Should we say it is also illegal? The communications are now largely digital and I don’t see any illegality being made because the law gives me power to use any communication that I deem fit,” he added.

He further explained that that is why in addition to postal address, his ministry always advertises in newspapers of wide circulation and shall presume effective service of all correspondences as required under the law.

Individuals without own postal addresses can in the interim, he said, use addresses of their lawyers or relations.

Seizing on the Lands ministry directive which is likely to revive the postal business emaciated by real-time electronic and mobile phone communication, Posta Uganda CEO Arinaitwe said they are prepared to open up postal addresses for all Ugandans, whether physical or online.  

“We have been having a series of meetings with the Ministry of Lands and I am now glad that they have come out to announce. What I can assure the public is that we are ready to open up for them as many postal offices as they want. We have full capacity and shall soon release an official statement on the same,” he said.

Mawokota South MP, Mr Yusuf Nsibambi, who is a lawyer and former chair of the Kampala District Land Board, however, said the announced changes, whereas good, are impracticable.

“[The] government does not have the capacity to issue physical addresses to all Ugandans and at the same time the level of Internet penetration and [mobile] phone ownership in Uganda [for e-postal services] is still low, especially in rural areas. So, it cannot be possible,” he said.

An individual can apply for a postal address of their choice; physical by visiting post office nearest to them or an eBox postal address online at An applicant would require to submit a copy of their valid National Identity Card, driving permit or passport for authentication of their particulars and stem forgeries and fraud. 

Once logged in onto the website, an applicant clicks on preferred type of postal address - company (Kampala City), company (upcountry), individual, business name and shop - and receive instant notification on their mobile phone handset. 

This prompt the applicant to pay by mobile money. The annual cost of a postal address varies by type; Shs90,000 and Shs60,000 for a company in Kampala City and upcountry, respectively, and Shs20,000 for individuals, business and a shop.  Whichever the type, a postal address owner receives alerts on received physical mails through a short text message or SMS.

Source: Posta Uganda website