About a year ago, I bumped into a friend who considers himself to be close to the centre of power. After exchanging greetings, the friend declared that “We are going to abolish milo land.”
“You see I applied for a lease from Buganda Land Board for my five acres at Lubowa, but I was turned down because of my tribe,” my friend explained with a lot of anger. He went on to say in order to prove that Buganda Land Board was discriminatory, he sold one acre to a Muganda, who was immediately given a lease.
I promised to investigate his case and ensure that at least he would not be discriminated against. My investigations revealed that the policy of Buganda Land Board is that in upscale areas like Lubowa, no one is given a lease for more than one acre.
I was also advised that close to 75 per cent of their lessees are non-Baganda, so the accusation of tribalism my friend made, had no basis. I concluded that my friend’s complaint was misplaced. This story would have ended with the explanation from Buganda Land Board had it not been relevant to one of the recommendations in the report of the Commission of Inquiry into Land Matters namely that the land office should maintain only the freehold register book and discard the other two registers.
The importance of this recommendation will not be appreciated unless we first go back in history starting with the Land Regulations of 1986 under which the Commissioner was allowed to give out certificates over land which was not occupied by Africans.
These certificates were known as Grants. Under the Buganda Agreement of 1900, the Buganda Lukiiko, was mandated to confirm chiefs and private land owners in their plantations by issuing them with Provisional Certificates (PCs), which were converted into Final Certificates (FCs) after the government had surveyed their land.
In 1908, The Registration of Land Titles and Titles Law, was passed and introduced the mailo register. The Land Law of the same year provided that “The owner of a mailo shall not be permitted to hand over his mailo to one who is not of the Protectorate or to a church or religious society except with the approval in writing of the Governor and the Lukiiko.”
The Crown Lands (Declaration) Ordinance of 1922 vested all lands and any rights therein in the British Crown while the Registration of Titles Act of 1924 introduced a new registration system under which the registrar was required to keep three registers one each for mailo, freehold and leasehold.
The expulsion of Asians and other expatriates from Uganda meant that many Grants held by non-Africans over mailo land became without owners. Second, many Africans still had their titles registered as MRVs because the changes of 1958 did not make it compulsory to convert to the Block and Plot system, which was introduced.
From around 1988, land office staff started to enrich themselves by transferring such land into their names or those of their appointees.
To cover up the “theft,” donations of large expanses of land were made to the political leadership. This practice was recorded in the report of the Commission of Inquiry into Uganda National Roads Authority (UNRA).
In one case alone, an elderly woman lost her inheritance of 1,150 acres at Bunamwaya/Lweza her father, Yusuf Ssuuna Kiwewa, left her in his will.
To validate what is illegal and immoral the Commission of Inquiry into Land Matters recommended that MRV register be abolished. This recommendation is unconstitutional and it is difficult to understand how the distinguished Commissioners allowed themselves to be led in this embarrassing trap.
Mr Mulira is a lawyer.