On the 5th of August, the Minister for Lands, Housing and Urban Development, Hon. Betty Amongi provided clarification on the proposed Land Amendment, at the Uganda Media Centre in Kampala.
Three legal regimes guide land matters in Uganda: the 1995 Constitution, which vests land in the citizens of Uganda under Article 237; the 1998 Land Act CAP 227 and the 1965 Land Acquisition Act CAP 226.
The 1995 Constitution of Uganda and the Land Act provide four tenure categories under which land may be owned in Uganda namely; Customary, Freehold, Mailo and Leasehold tenure. These legal regimes provide protection for Ugandan land owners.
According to the Lands minister, the subject of the proposed amendment does not affect the status of ownership but rather deals with Land Acquisition for public works. The proposal is to amend the Land Acquisition Act, would allow Government to compensate registered proprietors and other land owners prior, and while infrastructure development work is underway; for construction of roads, railway, health centres, schools, power and water facilities plus any other critical Government infrastructure development project like dams etc.
Honourable Betty Amongi called for calm from Ugandans. She appealed to the public to remain objective and debate the proposal on its merits or demerits but not on the basis of their political leanings.
“Currently, the proposal is still at inception stage, and should the proposal be approved for an amendment, then we shall hold consultations in a participatory and inclusive manner,” revealed the minister in a press release, adding, “Ugandans will be given an opportunity to debate the merits and demerits of these proposals as was done for the Land Amendment Bill, 2007 by Cabinet and Parliament. That is the channel through which laws in Uganda are made.” Similar proposals have enjoyed considerable success in countries like Kenya and India which have ably implemented people centered policies and laws and at the same time addressed timely acquisition of land for Government projects.
The basis of this proposal is rooted in the need to resolve long, cumbersome procedures of acquisition as contained in the Land Acquisition Act; the current land acquisition procedures as provided for under the law entails the followings:
- Planning to determine different land options available to meet public needs in a participatory manner.
- Exact location and size of the land to be acquired is identified.
- A notice is published to inform owners and occupants in designated areas that the Government intends to acquire their land.
- People are requested to submit claims for compensation for land to be acquired. The notice describes the purpose and process, including important deadlines and the procedural rights of people.
- Public sensitization and consultative meetings provide people with opportunities to learn more about the project, and to express their opinions and needs for compensation.
- Determination of the equivalent compensation for the land to be acquired at the stated date of valuation.
- Owners and occupants submit their claims.
- The land is valued by a Government valuer or by a private valuer appointed by the acquiring agency under the supervision of the Chief Government Valuer.
- The acquiring agency considers the submitted claim and offers what it believes to be appropriate compensation.
- Disclosure of award and negotiations then follow. Where there is acceptance of compensation award Government pays people for their land or resettles them on an alternative land.
The minister also revealed that the law provides land owners and occupants the chance to contest compulsory acquisition, including the decision to acquire the land, the process by which the land was acquired, and the amount of compensation offered through a cost effective and equitable complaint redress process.
The bureaucracy that underlies the acquisition process is what the proposal seeks to end because in the past, it has delayed most Government infrastructure development projects and must be cured through introduction of the proposed Land Acquisition amendments. “There are scenarios where 90% of community who want services have accepted the value government is paying, then 10% rejects it and the project is compromised or abandoned and monies returned or not utilized,” reads the statement.
The Lands minister also offered clarification on the Competitiveness and Enterprise Development project, backed by the World Bank and implemented by the Ministry. This follows misinformation on the project by a local Luganda daily. The minister said the purpose of the project is to improve competitiveness of enterprises in Uganda by creating an efficient and effective land administration system; in line with Article 237 Sect. (4) and Sect. (8) of the Land (amendment) Act which allows those owning Land under Customary Land to acquire Certificates of ownership.
The project has also provided for systematic registration of land to positively impact enterprise creation and socio-economic transformation by supporting land owners in both rural and urban areas to register their land assets. The project is expected to improve land administration through the set up of zonal land offices in Kabale, Luwero, Mityana, Mpigi, Moroto, Rukungiri, Soroti, Mukono and Tororo to bring that to a total of 21 offices countrywide.
The project includes undertaking systematic registration of individual and communally owned land, through establishing Communal Land Associations (CLAs) and demarcating their land to protect it from being grabbed by issuing them with certificates or titles; and implementing actions for Strengthening Institutions and Mechanisms for land dispute resolution by engaging the Judiciary and other land dispute resolution institutions.
A similar project was done in Rukungiri in the 1950s to protect land owners’ interests by issuance of adjudicated freehold titles. Today these owners are the richest because of the economic transformation the land titles brought. The Ministry also did the same for people in Ntungamo, Iganga, Mbale, and Kibaale, called Systematic Demarcation. It has equally protected citizens’ lands from being taken away. Currently a similar intervention is underway in Jinja and Sheema districts. The interventions are demand driven. Government does not force any one, as long as owners see the benefits of tenure security in modern times.
Other initiatives where the citizens of Kasese have demanded for Certificates of Ownership; over 18,900 CCO applications have been received. Currently, over 5,000 CCOs have been completed and issuance is underway to the owners.
Reports therefore of Government wanting “to grab peoples’ land by ensuring that they get certificates is misleading, unacceptable and a plan to keep people under fear of threatened evictions. Hoima, Buliisa and Nwoya, have all gone to kasese to see CCOs in action, in the banks, being used during dispute resolution, protecting the rights of women and children and facilitating the poor to get conclusive evidence of their land rights and all of them want the same.”
“I want to appeal to the Politicians who themselves have titled their Land, to sensitize the population on the benefit of securing their rights under any tenure system rather than misleading them,” said the minister.