Hon Kahinda Otafire, the Minister of Justice and Constitution affairs has asked asked the committee on legal an Parliamentary Affairs to give him and the Minister of Lands, Housing and Constitution, Hon Amongi two weeks to Consult with their colleagues in Cabinet on the Cinstitution Amendment bill.
The request arose after the Minister failed to answer fundamental questions on what the amendment intended to cure. The bill which seeks to allow government to compulsorily acquire land after depositing compensation in courts of law has raised a lot of skepticism.
Hon Hamson Obua, the representative from Ajuri County asked the Minister 3 questions in regard to the proposal which include;
A guide on which other country has a constitutional provision that states that land belongs to the people as well such a specific legislation that has a provision like the one the constitution amendment bill proposes
A list of government agencies affected by delays in land acquisition and at what point government hands over projects to consultants; before or after all encumbrances are solved and
Why the Standard Gauge Railway was being used to justify the bill yet the delay of the project is attributed to delays in disbursement of project monies.
Hon Oboth Oboth who is also the chairperson of the committee also asked the Hon. Otafire if it’s necessary to amend the constitution when there are enabling laws like the Land Acquisition Act and if the amendment is the only one, given in the 9th Parliament he had promised a comprehensive Constitution Amendment bill.
Hon Ottafire justified the provision that it’s in the best interest of Ugandans. He added that during the promulgation of the Constitution, the framers of the law did their best to protect the citizens of Uganda for instance in article 26, land belongs to the people and in the process made certain decisions which have come to impact on government operations especially in infrastructure.
He beseeched the committee to understand the plight of the government as the disputes arising from compulsory acquisition of land costing billions of dollars, unfortunately that was the only justification given.
MPs pressed on the matter, against the bill.
MP Katuntu told the Minister and Members of the SGR present that it was ridiculous to require Parliament to amend the constitution on account of compensations for as little as UGX 396,500. He added, saying, ‘He who seeks equity or justice must do so with clean hands,’ before accusing government of not paying compensations worth UGX 600 billion.
Hon Katuntu also accused unscrupulous individuals with insider information who buy land in road reserves in anticipation of compensations. He advised government to create efficiency within its Ministries, Departments and Agencies and also create a tribunal for Alternative Dispute Resolution for land.
In conclusion he said he is not personally against compulsory land acquisition as long as there is adequate compensation. He said in the mean time, it was waiting for the common sense and legal logic for the proposed amendment as the law is not meant to strengthen the strong but protect the meek.
MP Ssemujju faulted the land dispute problems to inadequate planning on the part of Government and no amount of constitution amendments would fix the problem. He added that the problems affecting government problems went beyond land disputes. He said the issue of disbursement of project finds was also eminent with only 42% of Uganda’s loan portfolio had been disbursed for respective projects.
With different voices raised and no clear cut answers, Hon Otafiire asked for two weeks consult with Cabinet on the matter, the 45 days a committee has to consider a bill before it notwithstanding. A request the committee accepted.