By Kaweesa Keefa
It might as well be admitted that the KCCA carnival and the “gratis” to the hawkers spiced the golden independence celebrations in Kampala, but the grand parade watched by a mammoth crowd at Kololo eclipsed the events.
A replica of the same was demonstrated at Naggalama grounds in Mukono district on Friday October 12, including the displays by farmers and investors stands which were graced by the President.
What mostly captured the President’s attention was the minister of youth introduction of Mrs. Ruth Tamale, the wife of Tamale whose husband is reported to be in prison because of a kibanja dispute with the land lord but whose house had been razed to the ground in the early hours of Wednesday morning by court brokers.
The minister went on to state that in order to counter this seemingly ineffectiveness of the Land law whereby a kibanja holder should not be evicted unless on nonpayment of Busuulu, the Government should immediately embark on rebuilding the Tamales house on the kibanja.
He went on to state that the same law is silent on where tenants should pay Busuulu (nominal ground rent) if the land lords refuse to receive it as it is evidenced in the district today.
I concur with the Minister Kibule. The President narrated to the people about the struggle and agitation for land by the Bataka in the 1920s culminating in the setting up of a land commission in 1924.
I hereby submit that the said commission consisted of the chief justice (Sir Charles Griffin) and the Provincial commissioner, Buganda (J.C.R Sturrock).
According to available records, the commission findings were impracticable, that the British government, mindful of the powerful support rendered to the few Bataka by the many Bakopi or cultivating tenants, “declared its intention of insisting upon the passage of legislation to ensure security of tenure to native occupiers and for limitation and regulation of rents and tribute in kind” which was on October 15, 1926 published in the Uganda Herald.
The “Buganda Busuulu and Envujjo law of 1928“, which was described as “perhaps the first legislative enactment in Africa dealing with native rental conditions” came into effect on January 1, 1928.
I also hasten to add that Section 11 of the Buganda Busuulu and Envujjo Law of 1928 provided that “No tenant may be evicted by the mailo owner from his kibanja save for public purpose or for other good and sufficient cause unless a court having jurisdiction shall have tried the case and made the order of eviction”.
The same law also provided that “while a tenant is still prosecuting his appeal, or until the time for appeal has expired, he shall remain in undisturbed possession of his kibanja until such time as the order of eviction shall have been received from the final court of Appeal”.
This Law, the president said, was the principal foundation of the current land Act of 1998 and the subsequent 2010 amendments therein.
I believe that what the President laboured to explain was the meaning of “nominal’ to mean “recognition” that should not be taken for land lord profit in any commercial sense.
The President actually gave an example of a soldier’s salute which meant recognition of a senior which ought to be responded to or ignored but that much as it might be an offence if ignored, is not fatal.
Under the above Act, the Busuulu was fixed by law at sh10 per annum.
The present Land Act which was welcomed with great relief by almost all bibanja holders , the “have nots” provides the District Land Board to fix the Busuulu/ground rent ,however, the President was not informed of the present situation whereby some landlord , the “haves” are charging tenants sh240,000 per year with strict instructions/orders not to construct permanent houses, plant coffee trees and grow trees.
While the president admitted that there was a gap in the existing land law, which he promised to be amended to provide a remedy, he insisted that courts should be compassionate and reasonable while exercising their duty as these bibanja holders are fellow Ugandans.
My urgent concern is why is the president voice alone on issues of eviction from land? Where are the representatives of the people, the Members of Parliament?
There are so many Tamales in prison and others on the street or village camps because of eviction. Kayunga district is currently a no go area for land lords who want to administer eviction , the major reason why my sister Nantaba was facing stiff opposition from the Parliament Appointment Committee.
The Presidents promise for Parliament to amend the land Law should, therefore, be a welcome relief, which should not be high jacked by rich land legislators and should be used to address all abnormalities currently existing in land transactions.
Kaweesa Keefa is a lawyer based in Mukono.
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Time to review land law