Mailo: Nabbanja explains proposed land reforms

Prime Minister Robinah Nabbanja addresses NRM parliamentary committee chairpersons in Kampala yesterday. PHOTO/ALEX ESAFALA 

What you need to know:

  • The premier says the proposed land reforms don’t seek to abolish Mailo land tenure, but rather to strengthen it and protect bibanja holders. 

Prime Minister Robinah Nabbanja has disclosed some of the proposed amendments in the land law to Members of Parliament (MPs) and asked them to stop the “senseless evictions” in the country.

Ms Nabbanja and Government Chief Whip Thomas Tayebwa yesterday convened a joint induction meeting with NRM committee chairpersons and their deputies, and regional and committee whips in Kampala to discuss the presidential directives and areas of mutual interest.                                                                                                                  

The premier informed the committee chairpersons that President Museveni has directed the 11th Parliament to support the impending amendments to the Land Act in order to stop the epidemic of evictions and restore sanity in the country.   

The MPs, who attended the meeting, told Daily Monitor that the premier clarified that the proposed land reforms don’t seek to abolish Mailo land, as some people claim, but rather to strengthen it and protect bibanja holders who have endured years of “indescribable suffering” at the hands of “shrewd” landlords and their agents.

“He [President Museveni] talked about the amendment of the Land Act; he said we should amend the land law so that the bibanja owners pay their busuulu [ground rent] to the sub-county chiefs in case their landlords are not available,” Ms Nabbanja told MPs.

“Our bibanja owners have lost land because their landlords sometimes [deliberately] hide themselves and when they go to court, they say [so and so] did not pay busuulu. This must stop and as leaders, it’s our responsibility to protect and defend people from evictions,” she added.

On June 9, the President, who was speaking at the 32nd Heroes’ Day celebrations at Kololo Ceremonial Grounds,  expressed dismay at the century-old ‘‘very bad’’ Mailo land tenure system used in Buganda Kingdom, stating that it is ‘’an evil system” and “It’s not anywhere else in Uganda.

Mr Museveni disapproved of the land tenure system that was adopted in the post-1900 Buganda agreement era and reiterated that, “It is really very bad and not fair but some people support it. How do you allow these things to happen?”

Although the process of drafting the draft Bill is ongoing, MPs who attended the meeting talked of government determination to protect bibanja holders in the proposed land amendments and make it difficult for landlords and land grabbers to evict them from their land. The government wants to give land owners full ownership of their land like elsewhere in Uganda.

The President also instructed Ms Nabbanja to tell the MPs to focus on advancing laws that would advance common good, support environment protection, and concentrate on major issues that aim at fighting corruption.

The Prime Minister cautioned the NRM- leaning MPs chairing various committees to use their positions to advance all government and pro-people agenda without fail. “Colleagues, sometimes our chairpersons decide to behave differently. Sometimes they behave like the Opposition when it comes to government positions. I would to urge you colleagues that this time round, we don’t expect any member of our committee to behave differently. We can fight elsewhere, but let’s not fight on the floor of Parliament,” she said.

Nabbanja warns Opposition leaders
Without giving specifics or disclosing particular individuals,  Ms Nabbanja revealed that government has embarked on a process of unearthing and exposing opposition legislators who use their positions as heads of committees to ‘amass wealth’.

“Many of you who are in parliament, you know what the opposition MPs do in their oversight committees. Most of them are very rich, we [government] are aware. How do they amass this wealth? We are now coming for them also. And if we do this, the public will regain confidence in us [and] we shall be in charge of this country. We shall [do this] because we have all access to all the information we need to fight this kind of corruption,” she said.

Ms Nabbanja’s remarks came just a day after Mr Museveni met the Kabaka of Buganda and discussed several issues, including the proposed land amendments.

The meeting with the Kabaka also came three days after he warned those seeking to abolish the Mailo land tenure system to go slow. This was during celebrations to mark his 28th coronation anniversary in Lwengo District. 

Govt Chief Whip  pledges SUPPORT
Government Chief Whip Thomas Tayebwa (Ruhinda North) promised to rally lawmakers and other government stakeholders to support the President’s directives, including the proposed land amendments. Mr Tayebwa asked NRM MPs to counter what he called “propaganda and distortions” about the proposed land amendments.
“There are people spreading fake news on the proposed land amendments and distorting facts…it’s our duty to counter these lies and give people the right information. Ours is a pro-people government, we cannot bring a bad law. There should be no cause for alarm; the Bill will protect bibanja holders as well as landlords and ensure peace and stability in the country,” Mr Tayebwa said.   
He reiterated that he took committee leaders through [induction] to ensure that when they are processing ministerial policy statements, budget and all government proposals and legislations, they are all aligned to the three government programmes. 
“The moment we do that, then we shall done a very great,” he said.
Mr Tayebwa also revealed that his office will champion the campaign to popularise and prioritise government programmes.
“The overall goal is to ensure that we monitor government programmes and help uplift the lives of our people who are not in the money economy to improve their livelihoods. We have to make sure that the budget presented to parliament is not distorted,” he said.