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Land Bill insufficient, says rights commission

By Vision Reporter

Added 1st April 2008 03:00 AM

The Uganda Human Rights Commission has described the Land Amendment Bill “as a piecemeal” that would not solve the current land problems.

By Barbara Among

The Uganda Human Rights Commission has described the Land Amendment Bill “as a piecemeal” that would not solve the current land problems.

“There are too many land problems and the piecemeal approach is not going to solve them,” commissioner Aliro Omara told the MPs yesterday.

The commission chairperson, Margaret Sekaggya, advised the Government to draw a comprehensive land policy in order to solve the current problems.

The commission pointed out that much as the Bill had shortcomings, it provided for legal protection against unlawful evictions by private individuals and entities.

“This is key in the enjoyment of right to property, land and housing,” Sekaggya said.

She recommended that more participatory consultations to resolve the land issues be conducted.

“The Government should set an independent commission, which can consult and give recommendations to resolve most of the issues rather than the piecemeal approach offered by the amendment.”

The commission opposed the proposal that the lands minister determines rent. They said the fee should be agreed upon by the tenant and owner, where they fail, the land board should do so.

But in the event that the minister determines the rent, the commission pointed out, it should be based on location, value and usage of the land.

The district land boards should be independent and the minister’s involvement be declared interference, Sekaggya proposed.

The commission also demanded for a defination of a customary tenant.

“Customary law is not codified or written and the Bill, if passed, may cause confusion as to who is a customary tenant and what their interest and rights in the land are.”

Sekaggya said punishment should be commensurate with crime.

“The sentence of seven years for unlawful eviction mentioned in the Bill is on the high side. There should be an option to pay a fine.”

The commission called for a distinction between punishment for an attempt and actual unlawful eviction.

The process of eviction, the human rights agency pointed out, was lengthy and over-dependant on the existence and effectiveness of land committees.

“These committees have failed in the past. What guarantee is there that they will work after the amendment?” Sekaggya asked.

The commission said there was no provision in the Bill to deal with unbearable tenants like those who degrade the environment.

The Bill, the commission said, lacked provisions for a government official to supervise eviction or proper identification of evictors.

Unlike other submissions that have caused debate and raised many question from MPs, the commission’s submissions were well received.

Additional reporting by Paul Kiwuwa

Land Bill insufficient, says rights commission

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