OPINION | LAND AMMENDMENT BILL
By John Ngabirano
I was much intrigued by the story published in the New Vision Thursday, September 7, titled; “Museveni orders Minister over land compensation” in which the President rallied Ugandans to support the Constitution Amendment Bill –Article 26 , which seeks for compulsory acquisition of peoples’ land. The proposed amendment has enraged the population prompting the Head of State to personally carryout countrywide campaign on the matter.
I am surprised that up to now, the President has not been told the truth: that the people are against the proposed land law amendment not because they do not want Government projects, but due to lack of trust.
Through our Pan African youth chapters in the regions and universities, we have found out that people are not sure whether the usual land grabbers, who are big people with big connections in the Government and the State won’t use the law to escalate land grabbing.
Mr. President, mistrust in this country has gone to another level that the country will continue to be shocked with resistance against obviously good interventions by the Government unless we address our government’s officials’ image problem.
I was shocked that many people have no confidence in government valuers and the argument is that since they are government officials, they will front government’s interest against the people. Hence, the key obstacle here is perception. The question should be; how did we get here Mr. President that many people do not have trust in our government officials?
Mr. President, the complaints over delayed land compensation you found in Southwestern Region are in all regions of Uganda. According to media reports, land compensation arrears are in trillions of shillings! This strengthens the mistrust that could it be that after failing to compensate people, now the Government wants to take peoples’ land by force without or with negligible compensation!
Courts of law, as a solution in land matters, have already been undermined. For example, in Kabwoya sub county in Hoima – Bunyoro oil region, people got a court order allowing them to stay on their land but Police instead evicted them! In some cases, there have been evictions when there is no complainant!
As Pan Africanist Youths, it pains us that we have IDPs because of land grabbing when we are an independent country with a State fully in-charge! Why, for instance, would the people of Rwamutonga village in Hoima be living in camps because an investor wants to put an oil treatment facility? Do people eat Oil? Or does it employ them? Some citizens who won Court awards few months ago have already been paid while others who won the same decades ago are still waiting due to preferential treatment! All these create mistrust, Mr. President.
And lastly, let me also say this as a youth. We have now and again said 80% of the youths are unemployed and this is on record and there are no office jobs for the educated. So by taking our remaining productive resource, which of course this time round the target is on our land, is the Government solving the unemployment problem or just accelerating the problem given the fact that 80% of Ugandans depend on land based agriculture for their survival?
The writer is the national coordinator of the Pan African Youth Club