UGANDA: WHAT INTEREST DOES MUSEVENI HAVE ON UGANDA LAND LAW?

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Gen. Yoweri Museveni. Ugandans are asking him; why do you want to temper with the land law?

“Museveni knows that globally, there will be food crisis in the next twenty years. There will be population boom, but land is limited for agricultural activities to sustain the world; and those with large chunks of land will be the rich ones. He wants to grab peoples’ land as much as possible. This is not action of a president who is planning to retire soon”- Retired Civil Servant Mr. Mike Ocan

GULU-UGANDA: Article 273 of the 1995 Uganda Constitution says “all land in Uganda belongs to the people” and Article 26 (2) of the same Constitution says that “no person shall be compulsorily deprived of property of any description except where taking possession is necessary for public use and, or, is made under the law after prompt payment of fair and adequate compensation”.

However, Uganda’s dictator of thirty years, Mr. Museveni, is mooting an idea to temper with those two Constitutional provisions by amending the 1965 land Acquisition Act to allow government have access to people’s land without prior negotiation with the land owners and offering prompt compensation despite Supreme Court ruling of 2014 against that.

In 2014, the Supreme Court ruled that the Land Acquisition Act of 1965 (section 226) were nullified and that the provision was not “among the non-derogative rights, and this does not give power to government to compulsorily acquire people’s land without prior payment and that such planned government projects do not fall under, with the exceptions of disasters and emergencies”.

An article in Uganda’s Daily Monitor, published on Monday, August 29, 2016 says president Museveni has ordered his new Lands minister, Ms. Betty Amongi Akena to work with the Inspectorate of Government and police to ‘dismantle a racket of thieving officials in the Land Registry who fiddle peoples’ leases and land titles in connivance with mafias”.

According to a Ugandan legislator, Ms. Betty Aol Ocan, the Land minister is about to table before parliament, an amendment of the land law to allow government to tax all idle land which is not being used by the owners; speedy getting of land certificates by investors who want land and that compensation to land acquired for government projects from land owners should be made later.

Another commentator, Mr. Mike Ocan, a retired civil servant, says the move by President Museveni to amend the land law now, is suspect and that he wants to grab land for his personal gain as much as possible before he retires.

“Museveni knows that globally, there will be food crisis in the next twenty years. There will be population boom, but land is limited for agricultural activities to sustain the world. Those with large chunks of land will be the rich ones. He wants to grab peoples’ land as much as possible. This is not action of a president who is planning to retire soon”, says a retired civil servant, Mr. Mike Ocan.

“With the rising world population, demand for food, oil (clean energy) and land becomes very important. They will come to you (African countries) with enticing proposals promising better future and creating employment, but this is far from being true”, says Washington based African Cleric, Father Aniedi Okure of African Faith & Justice Network, during a meeting organized by Acholi Cultural Institution on land conflict in June, 2016.

The current world population of 7.3 billion people is expected to reach 8.5 billion by 2030, 9.7 billion by 2050. Uganda has a population of 37.58 million (2013 World Bank Report). It has a total of 241,551 square kilometers (93,263 square miles) of land while land mass is 200,523 square kilometers (77,422 square miles).

Since Museveni ascended to power over thirty years ago, Ugandans have seen unprecedented land related conflicts and land grabbing by the rich powerful individuals associated with government.

What is the implication of Museveni move?

According to the Member of Parliament of Gulu Municipality, Mr. Lyandro Komakech, President Museveni’s move to amend the land law should be opposed by all Ugandans irrespective their party affiliations. He says if the bill sails through in parliament, then the people of northern Uganda (Acholi) will apply for autonomy with the United Nations after a referendum.

“This is not being illegal and sectarian. If we are pushed hard against the wall by the regime over our ancestral land, then we shall apply to the UN for autonomy in the same way Eritrea and South Sudan became independent states”, he says.

According an NRM official of Gulu district, Mr. Opiyo Christopher Ateker, the matter should be handled with “extreme care” by parliament and that government should consult widely without looking at party affiliations.

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