The NRM has struggled single-handedly and passed the Land Amendment Bill. It will be criminal for anybody to illegally evict tenants (lawful, bonafide or settled by the Government) from their bibanjas. This means that any landlord, corrupt official, corrupt police man, greedy soldier or corrupt magistrate can nolonger evict a tenant (kibanja owner) illegally.
If he does so without a court order and in accordance with the law, the State now has the powers to arrest him or her and charge him in court. His actions will also be null and void. This is an interim measure that creates security of occupancy for the kibanja owner.
Nevertheless, it does not mean that the basic paralysis in the land system in Buganda and in some few other parts of the country is resolved. The landlord cannot use his land because it is physically occupied by the tenants and has been so for scores of years.
The kibanja owner also does not have full ownership (title). It also discriminates the peasants in Buganda. In the 1995 Constitution, we provided that even customary owners, not to mention leaseholders, in the rest of the country can convert their ownership to freehold.
The peasants in Buganda, however, because they are in this bondage in the parasitic system created by the British to buttress their colonialism, cannot benefit from this constitutional provision. It is amazing that those, who claim to love Buganda so much can support this injustice even for a moment.
There is need, therefore, to go beyond the provisions of the recently enacted Land Amendment Bill, which I am about to sign into Law.
The idea of â€˜okwegulaâ€™ (redeeming oneself from bondage) may be onerous to the widows and orphans. The able bibanja owners, however, could benefit from a Government soft loan to kwegula.
This loan could be paid back in say five years. I have already experimented with a system in Ankole, where there is also some mailo-land. Prince John Barigye offered the Government his mailo-land that was heavily settled on by wananchi near Ishaka. The Government paid him and the people can now get their titles. Prince Barigye got money to do other things and the wanainchi got their real ownership.
By doing so, the two groups â€” the tenants and the landlord were both redeemed and empowered.
The problem in Buganda is that some of the landlords do not have the same social sensitivity like Prince Barigye showed.
Prince Barigye could see that there was no other rational and non-disruptive solution. In Buganda, however, some of the landlords, encouraged by Mengo, seem to think that the solution lies in evicting the peasants. This position is totally rejected by the NRM. Fortunately, now, the landlords have formed the â€œLand Owners Associationâ€.
I had already encouraged the formation of the â€œBibanja Owners Associationâ€, which I launched at Gombe on July 12 2008, at the height of the vilification campaign by Mengo against us on account of our mild proposals contained in the recently passed Land Amendment Bill. We are now going to engage the respective stakeholders and see the best way forward. The landlord should somehow be compensated so that the kibanja owner gets real ownership.
The questions are: who will compensate the landlord â€” the kibanja owner or the Government? What do we do with the mailo owners, who do not want to sell voluntarily unlike Prince Barigye of Ankole?
Do we legislate to compel them? We shall discuss this with all the stakeholders directly through their Associations. Some of the progressive landlords have solved this paralysis by giving the tenants a portion of land and freeing the rest of the land for their use.
This, obviously, is possible, where the tenants have not built strong permanent structures. Where strong structures have been built, other solutions are possible.
The future is bright. The Government could pay for the widows and old couples and give soft loans to the able bibanja owners.
The NRM will lead the people to solve all these colonial distortions like we ended the extra-judicial killings by colonial Armies, by Kony, by the Karimajong cattle-rustlers and the indisciplined soldiers within NRA/UPDF.
The writer is the President of the Republic of Uganda
President Museveni hails Land Amendment Act