What you need to know:
- Last year, the President banned evictions in Buganda and Bunyoro during the festive season. These and other short-term interventions akin to painkillers, have cast a shadow on government proposed land reforms in a country where bona fide bibanja holders have for years remained a target of senseless evictions.
On February 28, President Museveni stopped all land evictions done without the consent of the respective District Security Committees (DSC). In the letter to Prime Minister Robinah Nabbanja, the President threatened to take action on errant officials.
Last year, the President banned evictions in Buganda and Bunyoro during the festive season. These and other short-term interventions akin to painkillers, have cast a shadow on government proposed land reforms in a country where bona fide bibanja holders have for years remained a target of senseless evictions.
The 1995 Constitution and 1998 Land Act have failed to stop the rampant eviction of bibanja holders.
As part of his package to definitively solve the crisis of land evictions, the President constituted a commission of inquiry into land issues led by Justice Catherine Bamugemereire. The commission presented its report to government. A Cabinet sub-committee headed by Gen Moses Ali is studying the report with a view of guiding government in solving land problems.
However, the committee is moving at a snail’s pace, discounting the pain bibanja holders are going through at the hands of unscrupulous landlords conniving with magistrates to secure orders to dislodge bona fide occupants.
Government had proposed to amend the Land Act and allow the bona fide land occupants to pay nominal fees at sub-county offices in situations where crafty landlords decline receiving the rent (Busuulu).
While we appreciate the proposed amendments, our view is that the planned land amendments be handled with extreme care to avoid unnecessary drama in Parliament. The landlords should also be protected from squatters and all stakeholders should be consulted.
To effectively deal with land problems, we proposed a three-pronged approach that focusses on urgent land reforms as well as financing of the Land Fund and cleaning the land registry. Government should increase the Land Fund as promised to solve the historical dual ownership of land in Buganda, Bunyoro, Ankole, Tooro and Bugisu (Kakungulu and Ndawula families). The absentee landlords in these areas should be paid off and titles given to bibanja owners.
In the 2021-2026 manifesto, NRM had promised to clean up the land registry and cancel multiple titles on the same land and leave the genuine ones. Where the fraudulent landowner evicted people wrongly, NRM had promised to ensure that the perpetuators are forced to compensate them.
There was a deliberate plan to cancel titles that were issued on land that was already occupied by customary land tenants as well as titles that were given on wetlands. These, together with the planned support to customary tenants to register their land in accordance with the law, should be expedited in order to boost service delivery.