By Amb. Kintu Nyago
The latest, but not last, victims of the archaic Mailo land tenure system are Lands Minister Irios Nantaba and Inspector General of Police Kale Kayihura.
These have adopted a conflicting interpretation of a confusing law that confers land rights to two antagonistic personalities. These being the Mailo Landlord, who possesses the land title and the Kibanja tenant, who is supposed to have legal user land rights.
Unfortunately, in contemporary Uganda, the Kibanja tenant is usually referred to as a squatter/ trespasser, who logically has to be evicted!
Most magistrates, lawyers and relevant state agencies through the conditioning of the agency of Adam Smith’s ’invisible law of demand and supply’ are conspiring against the hapless bibanja tenants for their willy nilly evictions.
Hence Nantaba’s relevance, by siding with the Bibanja tenants, through projecting herself as a later day Robin Hood! The meticulous Kayihura on the other hand, is accused by Nantaba and the bibanja tenants for siding with the Mailo land lords.
A bad law, as the one regulating Mailo land in Buganda and Kibaale, fosters social and institutional conflict. It is other less visible victims have included two Commandants of the Police Land Protectorate Unit, just established three years ago!
One Kataratambi , summarily fired a few months back, over Mailo land conflicts. A recently Commissioner Kotokyo, a Policeman’s policeman, fell victim to the conflicting interpretation of the land law on Mailo between Nantaba and Kayihura.
Such a high turnover is causing discontinuity and institutional strain, if not breakdown, on the Police’s work on Mailo land.
Mailo land is fuelling corruption. For the interest of most absentee land lords is to sell it off. But because of bibanja owners, they sell it off for a song; to those who are willing and able evict these tenants. A process that involves corrupting GOU officials, magistrates, Police and Local Council members.
Additionally, these land grabbers tend to hire best legal minds in town. A bad land law does not foster social economic development, as envisioned by the NRM Manifesto or the National Planning Authority’s Vision 2040.
The latter ambition’s is to create by 2040 ‘A transformed Society from a peasant to modern and prosperous country within 30 years’’. In Buganda and Kibaale, this will remain a pipe dream, for the majority bibanja tenants, so long as mailo land exists.
The reason being that when Governor Frederick Gowers (Governor and Commander in Chief of Uganda Protectorate, 1925 to 1932), issued The 1927 Busullu and Nvujjo Law, he never intended to create social economic transformation in Buganda and Uganda.
Otherwise after sixty good years of colonialism, Uganda would have been a first world economy at independence. Gowers conceived Busullu and Nvujjo as a compromise that ensured political order through the continued support of the landed oligarchy.
He also provided peasants with land user rights, to ensure social political and their generating a surplus to the land lord and cash crops to the British economy.
The fabled symbiotic relationship between the Mailo land lord and his or her tenant is a myth. This explains as to why in the 1920’s Buganda’s clan heads, our custodians of culture, led by Kate Mugema, Jemusi Kabazzi Mitti and Spartus Mukasa opposed the 1900 Agreement, under the the Bataka Movement.
This conflict between the Mailo Land Lord and the tenant informed Dr. Obote’s abolishing Busullu and Nvujjo in 1969 and Idi Amin’s 1975 Land Reform Decree. For earlier, one of Amin’s Father’s in Law, was evicted by Michael Kaggwa in the 1960’s, in Kyaggwe.
The required WIN-WIN way forward is for President Museveni and the NRM to secure the political will to liberate our people from a colonially imposed bondage.
This through buying off the interest of the Mailo land lord, and enabling the tenants to secure their own tittles. This reform would generate development, while concurrently erasing the above indicated conflicts.
The writer is the deputy head of mission, New York