Museveni to dismantle old, barbaric land law 

Friday April 23 2021
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A family that was displaced off Lusanja land in October 2018 sets up a temporal shelter. PHOTO /Abubaker Lubowa

By YASIIN MUGERWA
By Arthur Arnold Wadero

President Museveni has promised to dismantle “the old and barbaric land laws” that for long have hard-pressed Ugandans through rampant illegal evictions.

 Without disclosing the specifics of the planned constitutional amendments to the Land Act, the President, with the support of NRM MPs-elect, undertook to implement the Justice Catherine Bamugemereire report on land matters in order to cure both current and historical land injustices in the country. He cited the Mailo Land tenure that the British colonialists handed to Buganda chiefs and their collaborators.   

Sources told Daily Monitor that the President told the NRM party MPs-elect on a retreat in Kyankwanzi District on Wednesday that his new Cabinet will as a matter of urgency study the Bamugemereire report and come up with a white paper on the probe recommendations.

He, however, disclosed that the public will be given opportunity to air their views on the proposed amendments before implementation.

 The President, who spoke after Justice Bamugemereire presented her paper on land conflicts asked the MPs to help him find a permanent solution to the land question. Mr Museveni told the lawmakers that the planned amendments to the Land Act would “stabilise the situation.”

 When contacted yesterday, NRM’s communications director,  Mr Emmanuel Dombo Lumala, confirmed the story but declined to provide details on how the president intends to dismantle “the old and barbaric” land laws.

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“The President personally nominated Lady Justice Bamugemereire to come and make a presentation to the members about the historical and current challenges about land administration in Uganda,” Mr Dombo said, adding : “In his wise counsel, the President promised to make a progressive intervention in the matters at hand and he assured members and Ugandans that the land grabbers will be defeated.”     

Proposals

 On December 8, 2016, the President appointed a Commission of Inquiry into the Effectiveness of the Law, Policies and Processes of Land Acquisition, Land Administration, Land Management and Land Registration in Uganda (the Commission) headed by Bamugemereire.  The probe team crisscrossed the country and held public hearings on land conflicts.

 In the Seven-member commission report to the President, Justice Bamugemereire proposed that all land in the country be registered to minimise land disputes, enhance tenure security and create avenues for optimal land use. Justice Bamugemereire has since denied plans to abolish Mailo Land but instead backed creation of a single land tenure system for Uganda.

 Mailo Land is a form of freehold predominant in Buganda, with some peculiar historical characteristics. The constitution recognises this type of land tenure and other forms of freehold available in Buganda and other parts of Uganda. However, this land tenure system sits at the epicentre of the wrangles between the landlords and bibanja owners.    

 In order to achieve the planned fusion of the parallel freehold systems in the country, it would be necessary for Cabinet and Parliament to address the contradictions caused by occupancy rights that frequently affect Mailo tenure. These contradictions according to sources include separation of rights of ownership from occupancy that has led to difficulties in the smooth operation of the Mailo Tenure System.

 The commission report recommended introduction of customary freehold in the law and establishment of Uganda Land Services Bureau (ULSB) to manage all land matters. The Bamugemereire team also proposed a compulsory tax on idle land to be levied on privately-owned large tracts of land of half a square mile.

 Justice Bamugemereire took the NRM MPs through the land tenure systems, loopholes in the current land law, corruption in land management and reiterated that her Seven-member commission prescribed remedial measures to address the problems afflicting the systems of land administration, management, acquisition, registration and disputes.

  Explaining the President’s renewed fortitude to solve the land question “once and for all”, sources in Kyankwazi alluded to a private meeting the President had with MPs from Buganda Sub-region, who attributed his poor performance in the central region on the rampant eviction of bibanja holders and poverty.

In the closed-door meeting on Tuesday, the MPs from Buganda called for a lasting solution to illegal evictions and protection of bibanja holders (tenants) to which the president pledged to end what he termed as “colonial mistakes.”

Legal hurdles

Although President Museveni undertook to implement the Bamugemereire report in September last year, the Constitutional Court quashed the decisions and recommendations of the Commission of Inquiry into Land matters which the judges condemned as having acted illegally when it convened itself as a court of law in handling land disputes. In a unanimous decision of the court, the five judges of the panel ordered that all disputes relating to ownership, use and or access to land emanating from the Land Act, the Registration of Titles Act or any other law where such a dispute is not resolved amicably or administratively can only be determined by a court of law established under Article 129 of the Constitution.


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