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Letter to the President on land eviction

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Added 27th December 2018 11:48 AM

I want also to appreciate the President for his gesture when he gave free land titles to the people of Nakaseke.

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I want also to appreciate the President for his gesture when he gave free land titles to the people of Nakaseke.

OPINION

By James Galabuzi Mukasa

I would like to comment on the Directives that were issued by H.E the President regarding land evictions through the Ministry of Lands, Housing and Urban Development.

I want also to appreciate the President for his gesture when he gave free land titles to the people of Nakaseke.

The President directed that RDCs and DPCs should refrain from effecting Court Eviction Orders or else, risk loosing their jobs.

In his official statement dated 17/12/2018, the President ordered among others, that;

 There should be no Court Orders implemented without the Magistrate / Judge visiting the locus quo.

There should be no evictions of Lawful and Bona fide occupants on land except for non payment of nominal ground rent.

He went a head to state the different ground rates at different levels. He further stated that, in case that the Land Lord can’t be traced, the tenant should notify the Ministry of Lands, Housing and Urban Development stating the Block, Plot and size of land and location.

Forceful land sharing by Land Lords was prohibited. Tenants should notify the Ministry of Lands, Housing and Urban Development incase the Land Lord is forcing a tenant to share land in a condition for issuing land titles to tenants.

That where there is a consent between the Land Lord and Bibanja holders on land sharing, to ensure that Bibanja holders retain a minimum of 50% of land.

That LDCs should help Bibanja Holders to form Bibanja Holders Associations.

I would like to kindly and respectively inform the President that conflicts between Land Owners and Bibanja Holders in Uganda will not be solved by putting in place hash conditions geared to mainly frustrate Land owners yet he is also a Land owner.

A permanent solution should be devised where by both parties can co exist on land peacefully and gain from it economically.

Issuing land titles to the people of Nakaseke was done in a good gesture in a sense of settling land disputes between the Land Owners and Bibanja Holders.

This practice has created another percentage of Land Owners who in a nearby future will also have challenges with new entrants on their land who will subsequently claim to be Bibanja holders.

Hence going back to square one - wrangles between Land Onwers and Bibanja holders. This is very possible because land is inelastic and the population is elastic and growing rapidly.

Therefore, a part from issuing out land titles to Bibanja Holders, a regulation on how a person enters on a person’s land should be made where by a consent by the registered owners is a legal requirement for any one to get possession of a Kibanja. 

Otherwise, its obvious that not all Ugandans will be made Land Owners by Government therefore a need to regulate a relationship between Land Owners and Land Occupants. Land is supposed to be a basic capital for investment and survival.

I strongly believe that Land Owners have never had challenges with lawful occupants on land because they have co existed for many years back.

The challenge that has brought the current impasse is a constitutional creation of a controversial category of Bona Fide Occupancy which gives Bibanja  occupancy to any person who before  coming into force of the 1995 Uganda constitution, had occupied and utilized or developed any land unchallenged by the registered owner for 12 years and more. 

The challenge with this law, its difficult to ascertain how long a person may have been on land since such category has no formal communication from the land owner in terms of ground rent tickets or any other form of communication.

Secondly, many people who don’t fall in this category claim to be Bona fide occupants by counting years backwards from when they occupied land.

When these years knock 12, they think they are Bona fide occupants. This is a category of people who have hidden themselves within the lawful occupants and have waged wars against land owners.

Extinguishing these people requires a legal redress to get rid of them. This is the category which is illegal and too chaotic.

Land conflicts may never end until the category of Bona fide Occupants on land is amended. 

I have an example of a family which owned a Kibanja in Ngogwe. During the period of insecurity, this family went for refuge in Jinja in 1982.

Returning back in 2005, they found their Kibanja had been occupied since 1983 and these occupiers where Bona fide occupants since they had spent more than 12 years before the 1995 constitution. I feel that there are many cases of that nature.

Another item that has created too much conflicts on land is the lack of defined size of a Kibanja.

Some body may claim a Kibanja of even 100 acres of land which is not fair. The Kibanja holder will be at liberty to carry out commercial activities gaining millions of shillings yet he transmits an annual ground rent of only sh5,000 to the Land Owner.

This is a deliberate move to frustrate Land Owners.  I strongly believe that both Land Owners and Bibanja Holders are Ugandans who deserve to be treated well equally.

The size of a Kibanja should be determined whereby the Kibanja owner has a domestic Kibanja whose entitlements are perpetual and a Commercial Kibanja where commercial activities are carried out and an understanding on an annual rent is reached between the two parties. 

 A reasonable levy on cash crops grown may also be reached between the land owner and a Kibanja holder.  This arrangement upholds a good relationship between the two parties.

As we are in a global world whereby people are enjoying   open economies and relationships, I believe that its unfair for the President to regulate land sharing patterns between the Land Owner and a Lawful tenant by stating that the tenant should have a minimum share of 50% of the size of land.

Sharing should be left between the two parties concerned and in case they fail to agree, arbitral measures should be put in place to assist or, maintain the status quo.

The President advised Bibanja Holders to form Associations, and that was a fantastic advice.

Some time back, the President advised the Uganda Land Owners Association to meet with the Bibanja Holders Association and come up with an understanding as a way of resolving land conflicts in Uganda.

Our efforts to identify and meet the Bibanja Holders Association failed because we later on realised that the Bibanja Holders Association that was known, was   an NRM political pressure group. It never had any passion for the Bibanja Holders in Uganda.

Politics has also contributed to too much land conflicts. Politicians have deliberately not sensitized the masses about who a lawful and bona fide occupant on land

Chapter 227 of the Land Act states that a lawful occupant on land is a person occupying land by virtue of the repealed

(i) Busulu and Envujjo Law of 1928

(ii) Toro Land Lord and Tenant Law of 1937

(iii) Ankole Land Lord and Tenant law of 1937. It also stretches to a person who entered land with consent of the land owners including a purchaser.

A Bona fide Occupant is a person who before coming in force of the 1995 constitution, had occupied and utilized or developed any land unchallenged by the registered owner for 12 years and more.

The general public needs to be sensitized about the afore stated definitions of Bibanja ownership which politicians fear  because of their selfish interests in votes since the mala afide occupants on land are many compared to lawful and Bonafide occupants. Due to their interest in gathering votes, politicians refer to land occupants as Bona fide on land.

The President ordering Magistrates and Judges to visit locus would be a brave idea but unfortunately not realistic. 

The general public which bombards courts of law seeking for justice will attest to the fact that courts are full of case backlogs.

Therefore, Judges spending their valuable time going to locus would mean leaving behind hundreds of cases un attended to   which would not be good to other court users.

I strongly believe that once the paper work filed in court is exhausted, is enough for court to consider and make a verdict. Otherwise, visiting locus will not change anything on court record.

The Government should devise arbitral means of ensuring that the two parties -  the Land Owner and the Lawful and Bona fide Occupants and land co exist.

Consideration should also be extended to the mala fide occupants who through good discussions may be uplifted to a legal occupancy on land and refrain from forceful occupations.

There are many land cases in courts of law between lawful land owners and mala fide occupants on land who even can’t possess any document supporting their ownership.

Years are taken battling in courts but after the verdict is made, the victor faces a huddle with DPCs implementing the Court Eviction Orders.

DPCs instead refer victors to RDCs who intern frustrate the entire process which  has created lawlessness as the victor will devise any crude means possible to effect the eviction  without police interventions  which at times leads to loss of life.

Uganda Land Owners Association wants to organize a National Dialogue between the Land Owners and Bibanja Holders to forge an amicable way of co existing on land. We hope that if all goes well, we shall hold this dialogue in 2019.

In conclusion, Ugandans need to co exist on land and the onus is on Government to facilitate this approach if peace is to be availed.


For God and My Country.

The writer is the General Secretary of the Uganda Land Owners Association

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