EDITORâ€”I read with amazement the speech by President Yoweri Museveni when he was opening the sixth Commonwealth Youth Forum. Freely giving figures and statistics, the President outlined some of reasons why some of commonwealth nations had lagged behind in development.
I wish the Mengo people opposing the land reforms could listen to the Presidentâ€™s speech.
I know those opposing the land reforms are just a few individualistic aristocrats and feudalists who still want Ugandans to continue living as serfs under their total authority.
If Mengo has their subjects at heart, why donâ€™t they give the tenants a chance to freely own land and develop? I donâ€™t understand why the tenants should continue living as squatters on land they inherited from their forefathers. In any case, the Mengo establishment should know that land reforms have been going on worldwide and in most cases they have not been win-win situations. Certain decisions have always drawn negative sentiments in some circles and yet benefited the majority. The land reform issue is becoming controversial and I implore the President to organise a referendum so that the outcome is decided through a popular vote.
I concur with him that for there to be development, there must be social transformation and I believe land reform is one sure way towards achieving this.
EDITORâ€”I welcome the governmentâ€™s proposed amendment to make it criminal for a landowner to evict a lawful customary tenant by occupancy without a lawful court order. This, in my view, is not a new development in the laws of Uganda. It is quite clear that under the 1900 Buganda agreement, vast parcels of land which were occupied by peasants/customary tenants were allotted to chiefs and other prominent Baganda who surveyed and demarcated them with the eventual registration and acquisition of Mailo Certificates of Title. There was at the time no law regulating the relationship between the new mailo owners and the customary tenants.
At the end of the First World War in 1918, many ex-soldiers returned with a lot of money. By 1920, they had bought many bibanjas, not from the peasants, but directly from the mailo owners.
These bibanja had been occupied and developed as coffee and banana plantations for many years.
The mailo owners were being paid ground rent and royalties in terms of bags of coffee or cotton produced by the peasant farmers which the mailo owners demanded without any negotiation and depending of the number of bags produced. between 1920 and 1926, the peasants refused to grow coffee until Government intervened and forced them to grow and harvest the crop by flogging whoever refused to do so.
This kind of mistreatment resulted in civil disturbances and later gave rise to the enactment of the busuulu and the envujjo law of 1928.
The most significant development under that law was that no customary tenant would be evicted from their bibanja without an order by the then Principal Court of mengo. It was always an uphill task for a mailo owner to terminate a customary tenure. So, this new proposed land amendment is most welcome particularly where mailo owners mortgage their land to banks when they have customary tenants on that land.
In the event of default, it is the tenants who must pay or be evicted when they were not party to the transaction!
Land amendment law is most welcome