Uganda Peoples Congress

Uganda Peoples Congress
National Secretariat
Plot 8-10 Kampala Road, Uganda House,
P. O. Box 9206, Kampala

The Land Question in Uganda

Press Release

Embargoed for release at 11.00am, 16th January 2008

The Land Question Requires a Negotiated Political Settlement

  1. For the last three months, there has been an acrimonious public debate on the proposed Land (Amendment) Bill and the Kampala City Bill. There have been angry exchanges in the media between those who support the bills claiming that they are intended to protect "tenants" against "illegal evictions" and those who oppose the bills as part of a hidden agenda to grab land and aggrandize a particular group of people. The 18 th December, 2007 letter of President Yoweri Museveni to the Kabaka of Buganda and the Katikiro's reply of 29th December, 2007 are some of this ugly tirade over the critical land resource.
  2. The Uganda Peoples Congress has carefully considered this debate and wishes to state its position on this contentious matter. In principle, UPC
  3. Is resolute in its support for the right to own land by the Citizens of Uganda. Articles 137(1) and 26(1) of the Constitution are very clear on this matter. The UPC abhors any attempts to deprive the people of Uganda of their land.
  4. Recognizes the need for the genuinely poor and landless to be facilitated through the land fund to own their own land.
  5. Is opposed to the perpetuation of the stalemate between landlords and occupants that renders land unusable as an economic commodity by either. This stalemate should be resolved as soon as practicable so that the land is freed for economic use.
  6. Although some aspects of the current land debate that is fast degenerating into a crisis has some roots in the 1900 mailo land settlement, its recent presentation is squarely the result of the undemocratic, patronizing and self aggrandizement of the NRM dictatorship. The NRM is responsible for:-
  7. The forceful occupation of people's ranches from 1989 by people protected by government security agencies. Many disposed land owners are still struggling for justice through the courts.
  8. The creation of Kanyereru settlement out of Lake Mburo National Park to settle a specific ethnic community which has been provided special privileges. This set a precedent for other preferential land settlements.
  9. The legitimization of trespassers and land grabbers in the 1995 Constitution and Land Act, 1998 by the creation of the so called "Bonafide occupants", simply on the account of 12 years of illegal occupation. These are different from "lawful occupants" who are the legal bibanja owners on Mailo land recognized and protected as early as 1928 by the Busulu and Envujjo law.
  10. The marauding of pastoralists throughout Uganda and their illegal occupation of national parks, forest reserves and other public and private land with the tacit support of Government.
  11. The large scale acquisition of land by persons who are state connected and the rampant eviction of people occupying such land with Government assistance. This is creating a new super landed class alongside an army of poor and unemployed landless.
  12. The rampant illegal Presidential directives to Uganda Land Commission to give away public land housing Government institutions to the so called 'investors' who are in reality proxies for the big men and women in government.
  13. The current attempts by Government to grab land in Amuru District, which land is owned by thousands of people under customary tenure which is protected under the 1995 Constitution. What shall we do to President Yoweri Museveni's craze to forcefully acquire land for "investors"? On the promulgation of the 1995 Constitution on 8 th October, 1995, he particularly decried the fact that Government had been denied powers to acquire land for "investors".
  14. The controversial and provocative Land Bill is the latest NRM misadventure on land. It seeks amongst other things to:
  15. Entrench the illegitimate and unfair "bonafide occupancy".
  16. Entrench the insulting payment of nominal rent to land owners by occupants.
  17. Criminalize 'eviction' of the so-called lawful occupants.
  18. Criminalize sales of bibanja holdings on grounds of not giving the first option to land lords to buy to the bibanja.
  19. Criminalize land sales by land owners on the pretext of not first giving option to buy to the tenant.
  20. Open up eviction of customary owners of land through Courts under the lie of protecting customary tenants.
  21. The management of what was formerly public land especially in Buganda is another controversy. While the Mengo Government wants the Uganda Government to return to it the '9000 Square Miles' which it used to hold under the 1962 Semi-federal Constitution, the Uganda Government is ambivalent on the issue. What is the fate of this former public land in Buganda and indeed the rest of Uganda? Who should control former public land through out Uganda? What would be the fate of people who have over the years acquired land titles over such land?
  22. The management of forest land has also come up for controversy. The Mengo Government seeks the immediate 'return' of 1500 Square Miles of forests. What about the fate of forests and national reserves in the rest of Uganda that under the current Constitution are vested in the central government.
  23. The unresolved issue of the descendants of the customary owners of land in Kibale which was given away as private Mailo in the 1900 land settlement also cries our for urgent resolution. Several of the Mailo owners have since sold their land to other innocent persons for value. The land fund has been grossly inadequate to resolve this issue.
  24. The management of the City of Kampala and its land resources has also come up in the controversy. The Bill to split Kampala and create the Mengo Municipality and place the control of an expanded Kampala under President Museveni also targets the prime land in Kampala for grabs.
  25. This land crisis is essentially political, although the NRM Government and other protagonists are shy to admit it. The issue of management, ownership and control of resources including land has always been political. The NRM, as a fraud, has in its 20 years of dictatorship further distorted the fragile land terrain in Uganda. The NRM cannot, as the main cause of the problem, offer or manage the solution.
  26. There can be no quick fixes by legislation or use of force or unprincipled compromise with a few people. Attempts to use legislation and deception to grab land will lead to social, economic and political disorder. Current land grabbers should learn a lesson or two from what befell King Ahab of Israel when he murdered Naboth and grabbed his land as is documented in 1 st Kings, Chapters 21 and 22.
  27. The UPC welcomes Mengo's belated acceptance contained in Katikkiros letter to President Museveni, that there is need for transparent National Dialogue Mechanism. This is what UPC has advocated since the disputed elections of 2001. We need a National Conference composed of Uganda's real stake holders namely political parties, leaders of former Kingdoms and Districts to sit in a national conference to agree on:-
  28. The form of government for Uganda- whether federal or otherwise.
  29. The management of national resources including land.
  30. The institution of genuine multiparty governance in Uganda.
  31. It is only after such conference that the partisan 1995 Constitution can be amended, a democratic government elected and new land and other laws enacted. In the meantime, the NRM Government should save this country and itself disaster and withdraw the controversial Land Amendment Bill and the Kampala City Bill and stop all land give aways immediately.
  32. The UPC calls upon all Ugandans and its friends to lobby their members of Parliament to reject these suicidal bills. If the present Parliament enacts these controversial bills into law, the members should be prepared to answer for the consequences of their actions. For its part the UPC is prepared to challenge, in the Courts of law and oppose by all other lawful means any unconstitutional land legislation.

For God and my Country

Mama Miria Kalule Obote

President, Uganda Peoples Congress