Land Amendement Act

Land Reform in Uganda has recently taken center stage in the development of the country. The reasons for this are social, economic and political consisting of the need to resolve internal conflicts arising from inefficiencies within the existing tenure systems and owner- occupant relations and the need to right historical anomalies.

The land use and development in Uganda has been hindered by several factors including failure to use land as security because banks are hesitant to accept their titles especially when banks are not allowed to evict tenants in case of borrower defaults1. The landlord- tenant relationship and the resulting evictions whether forceful or lawful involves several groups of people in the country like Buganda, Bunyoro, Bugisu, Ankole, Toro where the phenomenon exists. The Banks are thus hesitant to use this land as collateral because they fear that landlords may impose tenants on the land to prevent them from taking over the land.

It was also noted that the costs of compensation to the occupants or tenants are too high hence many landlords either abandon property or force tenants off. Occupants were also previously hesitant to get involved in land development especially with the insecurity that was leading to deaths and injury. Insecurity created worries that they would probably be forcefully evicted hence they would not be able to see their developments through. Several people have also, in consequence of the entrenchment of the occupants’ rights and its hindrance to land development, resorted to increased use of wetland areas and depletion of forest and other natural habitats to create uninhibited land.

KEY PROVISIONS IN THE ACT.
The Minister of Lands will be in of determining the rent payable by tenant by occupancy within 6 months where the Board has not determined this and the rent is payable within one year after this or determination of rent rates by the Board. However, it must be noted that this is subject to the existing circumstances at the time. It is also unlikely that a landlord sitting upcountry would travel all the way to Kampala to have rent determined and yet that may not even cover his travel costs. The law now, a credit system which is adverse to development and the mess in the land registration system discourages investment. Evictions are rarely caused by nonpayment of ground rent. The main problem is the relationship between the occupants and the registered owners over land development and use. These should first be considered before meaningful development can be achieved.

1 Hunt, Development Policy Review 22(2)(2004), pp 173-191
As proposed by the new section 32(a) of the Act, a lawful or bonafide occupant shall not be evicted except where such eviction order has been given by court and only for nonpayment of ground rent. This is to be done not less than 6 months after the date of the order and court can make a decision as to extra charges or others if it deems fit. Court here refers to Magistrate Grade 1 or Chief Magistrate and this means that all local people can access courts and can have their issues dealt with expediently. Also, it is an offence for the tenant by occupancy to purportedly assign the tenancy to another without giving the first option to the owner and there is a prescribed punishment of not more than 90 currency points or four years or both.

The transaction will be invalid and land reverts back to the owner. In turn, where there is change in the ownership effected by sale, grant or succession, these shall not in any way the rights of the bonafide occupants and the new owner is obliged to respect this right. The Board is meant to hold and allocate land in the district that is not owned by any person in authority. However, any contravention of this will make the given transaction void. This takes care of the outcry by the people in the North like Gulu where people were afraid that their land was to be distributed to investors since most of them live close to town and only go to their land to farm daily.

Under sec 92, it is prescribed that a person who attempts to evict, evicts or participates in the eviction of a lawful or bonafide occupant from registered land without an order of eviction, commits an offence and is liable to imprisonment not exceeding 7 years and court may further order the convict to pay compensation or damages or make an order of restitution in favor of the evictee. EFFECTS AND CONCLUSION. The amendments to the Act are a welcome interim measure that provides security for a ‘kibanja’ owner or tenant. However, the Act does not solve the paralysis in the land system of Buganda and other areas. A landlord still cannot use his land for as long as it is in use by tenants and more so where, it has been so for more than 12 years.

The soft loan from Government to ‘kwegula’ could prove to be a solution for the able bibanja holders. President Museveni 2 pointed out that the Baganda, main propagators of the Mengo evictions, need to be as receptive as Prince John Barigye of Ankole was when he decided to give government his land for money and in turn, the wanainchi on the said land got their titles. This however may prove to be a deadly proposition especially with fanatics within the Central region and advocates of the Federal system who may incite violence over the supposed loss of land ownership to non tribesmen in the area. The Acholi and Lango for one also do feel like the Act is a government ploy to take their land and give it to investors.

2 ‘Presidents’s Statements’, UGANDA MEDIA CENTRE, 27th October 2010
Kingdoms in Uganda are adamant about the feasibility of the Bill but the President was hopeful that it would enhance the occupant’s rights and land ownership in the country, in addition to protecting people from forceful evictions. The severe punishments prescribed will certainly curb erratic behavior. We cannot predict the state of affairs between these two parties in the near future but it is hoped that the new law will serve to protect the public from the rampant forceful evictions and resulting personal injury. An eye should be kept on the fanatics like Mr. John Baptist Walusimbi, the Prime Minister of Buganda, the kingdom would not respect the new law and would continue to sensitize people about its negative impact.

Hunting for men