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Government consulted Bunyoro on Land Bill

By Vision Reporter

Added 7th December 2009 03:00 AM

By Dennis Obbo

I would like to make a Government response to an article in one of the dailies entitled “Passing Land Bill ‘shocks’ Bunyoro.”

By Dennis Obbo

I would like to make a Government response to an article in one of the dailies entitled “Passing Land Bill ‘shocks’ Bunyoro.”

By Dennis Obbo

I would like to make a Government response to an article in one of the dailies entitled “Passing Land Bill ‘shocks’ Bunyoro.”

It is not true that the Government did not consult Bunyoro on the Land Bill. On the contrary, a Government team headed by the then Minister of State for Lands, Kasirivu Atwooki, led a team to consult the districts of Hoima, Masindi, Buliisa and Kibaale.

The consultations were held on April 24, 2008 at Kolping Hotel in Hoima and Bunyoro Kingdom was invited and was represented. The Bill was translated in 11 local languages including Runyoro and widely distributed. Consultations were also carried out from 2007 up to September 2009. If there is any Bill that has had the widest consultation, then it is the Land Bill, No.27 of 2007.

Some of the key recommendations which the consultations captured from Bunyoro region included the following:

- Affirmative action should be considered for Bunyoro region based on the historical injustices which occurred;

- An everlasting solution should be found to address issues of immigration, absentee landlords, gazetted land, resettlement schemes, and compensation of landlords under the Land Fund;

- Consultations on the Land Bill needed to be cascaded to the lower local governments to inform the grassroots.

- lThe Land Bill should ensure protection of communally owned land as a means of securing the rights of the customary land owners;

- The Land Bill should include a remedy to people already affected by illegal eviction from their land.

For those who followed the debate in Parliament, you will note that a number of changes were made to the Bill before it was passed. These changes will definitely allow for restoration of social harmony and include the following:

- The proposed amendments provide for an annual nominal ground rent to be paid to the land owner. The amount is no longer sh1,000. The provision of the sh1,000 was repealed from the law, way back in 2004 by the Land Amendment Act 2004 section 14 (b).

This amount is now determined by District Land Boards, but should be nominal;

- Non-payment of annual nominal ground rent is provided as the only ground for eviction.

Landlords will now have to serve eviction notices to tenants who default on payment after a period of one year, and not two years as was in the law;

- The minister in charge of lands shall prompt District Land Boards to determine the rent, and where they fail to respond to his/her prompting, the rent may be determined by the minister;

- Procedures for eviction of lawful and bonafide tenants have been given to guide the courts of law;

- The new law criminalises the selling of bibanja without giving the first option of buying the kibanja and taking the assignment of the tenancy to the land owner. In such a case, the tenant on conviction will be liable to imprisonment not exceeding four years or a fine of sh1,920,000 or both, and will forfeit his or her rights to the land owner.

- Change in ownership of title effected by the land owner through sale, donation or as a result of succession shall not in anyway affect the existing lawful interests of the lawful or bonafide occupants and the new land owner is obliged to respect the existing interests he/she finds on the land;

- If District Land Boards allocate land, which is owned by any person or authority, under any of the four tenure systems, in contravention of their function which requires them to hold and allocate land in the district which is not owned by any person or authority, then such a transaction shall be null and void.

- Lastly, the new legislation provides penalties for those who will evict or participate in illegal evictions, including all those usually mentioned by the public — the individuals using guns, land agents, Ministry of Lands officials, District Land Boards — to imprisonment not exceeding seven years.

I would like to assure the public that the new law does not protect squatters and those on land on the basis of a license from the land owner.

It is also not aimed at giving opportunity to persons who have been allowed to temporarily occupy or use land by the land owner.

After the amendments are assented to by the President, translation of the law will be made in the major languages and will be widely distributed to the public.

Sensitisation on the enacted amendments shall be carried out. In so doing, we shall have put in place an interim cure to illegal evictions as the country awaits the launching of the National Land Policy.

The writer is the spokesperson
Ministry of Lands, Housing and Urban Development

Government consulted Bunyoro on Land Bill

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