Land grabbing in Uganda – who will speak for the oppressed?
All over the world Land has been known to be vital aspect of human life since all humanity depends on it for its existence. Land is what describes people as a community, gives them a live hood and is a source of food and income when used for agriculture and other purposes of development. Globally, especially in African countries there is increasing need for agricultural land that will sustain food production to cover the food insecurities that has caused land fights. Society’s fights over land has become a very normal phenomena in an increasing populated today’s world of Globalization where culture, economic and social aspects rule.
It is from these arisen need that” Land grabbing” was born where few powerful individuals both multinational and domestic investors grabs, lease or replace communities and acquire land that rightfully belongs to the poor for their own interest . Society land has been taken over forcefully by replacement , leasing or being bought in a very low price or with no value at all. This problem has evolved over the years all over the world and it’s no exception in Uganda. We have heard a lot of cases where investors and government forcefully remove and replace local communities in the name of development, hence violating the human rights of existence of the locals and right of ownership of land stipulated in the Ugandan constitution.
Political elites have acted as an umbrella for these land grabbers hence making many Ugandan communities to suffer not only due to little or lack of knowledge in regards to their rights but also because the laws and policies in mostly African countries does not cater for protection and reservation of these rights.
Stories of land evictions, land grabbing and encroachment of farm lands, forests, water bodies and discovered areas of oil and other valuable minerals are everywhere. Few individuals voices have been able to surpass intimidation and open up through media or by petitioning parliament . But there are also those individuals who still face intimidation hence hindering their voices to be heard.
Parliament through its committee of physical infrastructure has been presented with over 40 pending petitions on irregular allocation of Land from both multinational investors and government and encroachments in the name of development that have been piling over the years.
I attended one of the committee meetings where a petition against irregular allocation of land in Mbale by the Uganda Land Commission was presented. Mbale Municipal council blamed the Uganda Land commission for its irregular allocation of the community land without their involvement as a District. Presentations from the Councillors and surveyors pointed out political leaders to be behind these allocations that as a means to safeguard their interests put their relatives in such positions in administration. The committee met Uganda Land Commission and Mbale Land board and survey on different intervals to get their views. The Uganda Land commission faced allegations of offering overlapping land titles and acceptance to be in breach of the physical planning law since it does not allocate land. ULC only controls government land and it has no authority over protected Land.
Mbale complaints were presented in 2012 and in 2013. ULC constituted a team that investigated the matter where it was confirmed indeed there was irregular allocation in public spaces of Municipal cemetery (plot 56-62) & 64-68 Nabuyonga Rise), public open space in Indian Quarters (plot 16-22 & 17-21 Busoga Lane), public open spaces in Indian quarters (16-22 17-21 Nkambo Lane, Service lane along Kumi road (between plot 25 and 27 kumi road), Lorry park, Children’s park in Indian Quarters (plot 1-13 Butaleja lane), Town clerk’s residence (plot 3 Masaba road), Uhuru Park that led to suspension of all the land titles.
They further took a step and surveyed all the land titles; subdivided land was restored to their previous status, while some land titles were cancelled and development on the land was halted. For the leased land those that had expired leases were not to be renewed. This made me wonder: Why wait till the leases expire Couldn’t the land titles be cancelled regardless of their status?
Hon Dombo Emmanuel asked the same question that why wait and not caveat land titles. The response from ULC was that issuance and granting of titles involves a series of steps each having a signatory hence making cancellation of titles a complicated process.
One would ask: Whose fault is that in the first place?, should lawbreakers go unpunished just because it’s a long process to undo what they have done? Was this the best approach that they could have come up with to solve the problem? or Doesn’t this encourage others to do the same knowing no serious action will be taken against them? Too many questions – very few answers.
It also made me question the process of issuance of titles where the process involved identification of an area, then inspection, then issuance of title followed by survey and marking. All these things were not clear and to my understanding you cannot grant land titles before inspection else how will you be able to tell that the land has not been previously occupied? This could be the reason of overlapping titles.
The rules and laws guiding ownership of land is not well stipulated and its being manipulated by the few powerful elites and foreigners- this continues to be a sad occurence in Uganda.