Mailo land is unconstitutional

Saturday July 31 2021

Author: Male H. Mabirizi

By Guest Writer

Section 32A introduced into the Land Act in 2010 states that “Lawful or bona fide occupants to be evicted only for non payment of ground rent” S. 32(1a) reads that “...a tenant by occupancy who purports to assign the tenancy by occupancy without giving the first option of taking the assignment of the tenancy to the owner of the land commits an offence and is liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding ninety six currency points or imprisonment not exceeding four years or both; and the transaction shall be invalid and the tenant shall forfeit the right over the land and the land shall revert to the registered owner.” 
This is one of the most inhuman laws enacted by the Museveni regime thereby subjecting degrading treatment to mostly Buganda people, contrary to Articles 24 and 44(a) of the Constitution on top of depriving millions of their properties contrary to Article 26.

Under mailo land system, failure to pay rent is punishable by eviction yet selling part of it to pay rent is a crime leading to land forfeiture!  Advocate Isaac Ssemakadde in his article “AG Kiryowa Kiwanuka is the wrong man for the wrong job” published on  July 21 wrote that  “Few issues define Buganda – the monarchy, language, clan structure, traditions like kwanjula and of course mailo” I disagree that mailo is part of Buganda traditions. The mailo system coined in 1900 cannot be claimed to be part of our traditions.

Our situation has attracted international media. Thomas Reuters Foundation wrote in their article “In Uganda, row over land shines light on historic kingdom” published on  June 26 2017 that “This land is peaceful,” said Abdul Seryazi, standing in his family fields in Bugabo, a village in central Uganda...In April, three bus loads of men carrying sticks and machetes arrived in the village with the bulldozer. Angry residents fought back, fearing the land would be cleared, and the machine was set alight. While violent evictions are not unusual in Uganda, the case is notable because the landlord is Ronald Muwenda Mutebi II – the king, or ‘kabaka’, of Buganda, with machetes were accused of damaging crops, stealing tomatoes and blocking a water well. Seryazi, 21, said the loss of his family’s land would end his education: “Where are we going to get what to eat? Where are we going to get school fees?”

John Kitenda, the Buganda royal treasurer, said the men who came with the bulldozer were sent by a private investor who had leased land from the kabaka. “Those villagers are falsely claiming land,”...Bugabo residents insist they...were paying rent to the kabaka. “I like my king, because that’s what the culture says,” explained Seryazi. But he said the mood is shifting with many becoming suspicious of the kabaka’s motives...Meanwhile the kingdom has been forced to defend several court cases challenging its ownership and land holdings. “I want a court declaration that the kabaka does not own [his official estates],” said Male Mabirizi, a lawyer in one high-profile case. “He’s holding it in trust for the people of Buganda.”

That passage reveals a trustee by virtue of article 246(3)(a) of the Constitution in charge of over 638 square miles official mailo turning against the beneficiaries for money. What tradition makes people homeless, uneducated and hungry in their own country? As a Kkobe clan leader in charge of conflict resolution, I have seen many graveyards and traditional sites destroyed by mailo owners, homes erased making it impossible to raise children culturally.

Daily Monitor  of June 6 2017 carried a front page headline “Court orders Kabaka to show land money” and on page 4 that “The High Court has ordered produce bank statements of all the money the Mengo administration has collected from people living on the kingdom land...Justice Patricia Basaza ordered the Kabaka to present particulars of all the kingdom’s mailo land returned by government...not later than June 30”. Kabaka did not comply.
Without transparency, with evictions and crying elsewhere, mailo cannot be part of Buganda traditions.
 The author, Male H. Mabirizi K. Kiwanuka is a lawyer & a civically active   Ugandan.