ANOTHER land reform exercise will soon get underway. Focus should be on enabling citizens to register their interests in land. This has been the guiding principle in land reform since the 1975 Land Decree.
Under the decree, people were tenants on public land and could be evicted easily. The 1995 Constitution and the 1998 Land Act changed this. The law now recognizes customary tenure alongside mailo, freehold and leasehold.
Furthermore, squatters are now bona fide tenants with security of tenure. The latter can now acquire certificates of occupancy with the right to lease, mortgage, pledge, sell, subdivide or convert the land.
However, most bona fide occupants and customary owners are illiterate and poor, yet registering land involves surveying, a lot of paper work and other costs.
Consequently, many choose to stay without proof of ownership while some have been conned in the registration process.
Many average citizens continue to own or occupy big chunks of land as customary owners and bona fide tenants without titles or certificates of occupancy. Therefore, they cannot use the land as security for loans.
Efforts should be directed at supporting both bona fide tenants and customary owners to register their interests. This will make them more secure on the land and enable them to use it for mortgage financing. The Government should treat having a land title or certificate of occupancy as a human right.
The Government should shoulder the duty to provide the titles and certificates. The economy will be much different if every Ugandan, from urban centres to the remotest corner of the country, has a land title or certificate of occupancy.
Provide land titles