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Archbishop Lwanga backs land bill

By Vision Reporter

Added 5th December 2009 03:00 AM

A leading cleric in the Roman Catholic church in Uganda, Archbishop Kizito Lwanga, has lauded the recently passed Land Amendment Bill but called for revision of some sections.

A leading cleric in the Roman Catholic church in Uganda, Archbishop Kizito Lwanga, has lauded the recently passed Land Amendment Bill but called for revision of some sections.

By Cyprian Musoke

ARCHBISHOP Kizito Lwanga of Kampala Catholic archdiocese, has lauded the recently passed Land Amendment Bill but called for revision of some sections.

The Bill, which seeks to protect tenants against unfair evictions, was passed last week amid protests from the Buganda kingdom and opposition parliamentarians.

While praising the Bill for protecting tenants from injustice, Lwanga said some sections are unfair to the landlord. He added that both the positive and negative aspects of the Bill must be pointed out.

“Some people say everything about the Bill was rubbish, while others say the whole Bill is heaven. It has four major parts, some of which are good whereas others need amendment.”

The archbishop was speaking at the first Inter-Religious Council of Uganda consultative assembly in Entebbe on Thursday.

He singled out the clause that says a tenant can only be evicted after a court order and only on grounds of failure to pay ground rent.
Under the new law, he said, the Catholic Church will be stranded with tenants who build makeshift churches and use them to vehemently attack the same Church whose land they occupy. “If you have a piece of land and a person who belongs to a different political party settles on it, builds an office and starts hitting at your party policies, would that be fair?” he asked.

With ground rent very low at sh1,000, he added, a tenant can scornfully pay for 100 years. He wondered why the power to determine the rate was vested in the minister and not in Parliament.

He lauded the provision that prohibits a landlord from selling land without the knowledge of the occupants. “This is good as it protects the occupant,” he said.

He castigated the section that obliges a landlord to give a tenant a certificate of occupancy, saying it creates two owners on one piece of land. “Who of the two will a bank give a loan, the one with a certificate or the one with the title deed? Having dual ownership is legally dangerous,” he said.

He wondered what criteria were followed in imposing a sentence of seven years for unlawful eviction.
“Whereas that is good as it protects the occupants, why seven years and not two? Land is a very delicate issue and we appreciate the Government’s attempts to regulate it but the law should be very carefully drafted,” he said. The Bill is now with the President waiting for him to either assent to it or recommend changes and send it back to Parliament within 30 days. If he doesn’t agree with the Bill or sections of it, he can return it to Parliament.
The Constitution allows Parliament to enact a law without the President’s assent if the President rejects the Bill on two occasions and Parliament passes it for a third time with a two-third majority. If the President doesn’t sign or return the Bill to Parliament within 30 days, it automatically becomes law.

Lwanga called on the Government to put in place a land policy before the Bill is made into law, noting that many people were angry with MPs for the way they handled the process. The Constitution, he added, gives a lot of powers to the MPs, which they could use to ensure fair laws and policies. “If anyone is to blame for any bad policies, it is MPs,” he said.

A lands ministry official told Saturday Vision that the Bill was only an interim measure to stop the widespread land evictions, not an ultimate answer to the land question. Dennis Obbo, the ministry’s spokesperson, said they were already formulating a land policy that will overwrite the new land law.

“Ultimately it is the national land policy that will solve dual ownership of land and all the other land questions in Uganda. After its approval, the entire land act will be overhauled,” said Obbo.

According to Obbo, the ministry will complete the draft policy in early 2010 and then forward it to Cabinet for approval. Thereafter it may take another one or two years for the policy to be fully implemented. Obbo blames the apparent disarray in the making of Uganda’s land laws on the Constitution. “The Constitution gave the Government a two year deadline to come up with a land law. That is why laws that don’t follow the right policies were made. That is why we are now working backwards,” Obbo laments.
Predictably, the passing of the Bill has received a cold reception among real estate developers who see it as sabotage to their business.

Anatoli Kamugisha, the managing director of Akright Projects Uganda, said the law will create confusion between landlords and tenants.

“One has a Mailo title for the land and is free to sell it yet another has a tenancy certificate and has the right to use the land. The landlord knows he has some rights and the tenant also does not know the limit of his rights. How do you as developer deal with them?” Kamugisha wonders.

He believes the Bill will compound the problems they have been facing in resettling squatters to create space for housing estates. He also fears that banks are going to become skeptical about land titles are security for loans.

However, the average land broker barely knows what the Bill is about. “I don’t know what difference it makes as I have not seen it,” says Site Lugolobi, a land broker and surveyor in downtown Kampala.

“I did not even get the chance to look at the draft. I think it affects Bibanja holders mostly but I am not really sure.”

Additional reporting by
Lydia Namubiru and Joyce Namutebi

Archbishop Lwanga backs land bill

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