Inside the land reforms

A family that was displaced from Lusanja, a Kampala suburb, in October 2018, sets up a temporal shelter. PHOTO/FILE

What you need to know:

The new law will stop the mailo landlords from evicting tenants at their wish.

The government has started the process of drafting a Bill that will see reforms in the Mailo Land Tenure System, which is common in Buganda Sub-region, to get a lasting solution to evictions and wrangles.

A source in the Ministry of Lands, Housing & Urban Development said the law will ensure the mailo landlords don’t evict the tenants or those who have no documentations popularly known as Bibanja holders.

The government will start with the amendment of the Land Act, which has been changed several times since the promulgation of the 1995 Constitution, but has failed to cure the land wrangles in Buganda and parts of Bunyoro sub-regions, where the Mailo Land Tenure System is used.

In the Mailo Land Tenure System, the land owner is registered on the certificate of the title, the tenant by occupancy while kibanja holders have interests on the said land.  The system was introduced in 1900 agreement between Buganda Kingdom and the colonial administration where land ownership was given to a few chiefs and leaving others tenants or bibanja holders.

The source said they will have details of the Bill early next month.

Although the government isn’t planning to amend the Constitution to remove the Mailo Land Tenure System, the plan is to amend land law and make mailo land ownership meaningless.

It is alleged that the process is being spearheaded by the State minister for Lands, Dr Samuel Mayanja.

Efforts to talk to him yesterday were futile because his mobile phone was not available. He and his ministry colleagues were attending their orientation briefing.

In his weekly opinion in the New Vision newspaper yesterday, Dr Mayanja said it was high time to stop injustice against bibanja holders by mailo landlords. 

“Security of tenure cuts across religious, tribal or political differences. It is in this scheme of things, that the call of President Yoweri Museveni for a comprehensive reform of the mailo tenancy, necessary to give security of tenure in perpetuity for all citizens, is a noble call and must be supported by all Ugandans,” Dr Mayanja said.

At Kololo Ceremonial Grounds in May, President Museveni said Mailo was a bad land tenure system.

Although the Lands minister, Ms Judith Nabakooba, confirmed that they are planning to amend the Land Act, she denied that the Constitution is to be amended to scrap the Mailo system.

“I am not aware of these Constitutional amendments on land you are talking about. I haven’t received any information or report to that effect,” she said.

The Justice Catherine Bamugemereire Land Commission recommended the scrapping of the Mailo Land Tenure System.  In the reforms,  the government also plans to introduce taxation of idle land so that land owners can develop the resource.


    Buganda Kingdom is opposed to the scrapping of the mailo system. On April 15, 2018, Mr Charles Peter Mayiga, the premier of Buganda Kingdom, in a letter reacting to Justice Bamugemereire’s report, asked government to abandon the abolition of Mailo land or fusing it into another system.

     Mr Mayiga proposed that the government should inject more money in the land fund to liberate landless people and also reduce duplicity of ownership on the Mailo land.