The problem with the Government is that it may not be willing to offer adequate compensation to the affected persons
By Brian Kisomose
Recently, the ruling party in Uganda, the National Resistance Movement (NRM) held a retreat at the National Leadership Institute (NALI) in Kyankwanzi. The retreat included ministers, permanent secretaries and other party members. They came up with various resolutions. One that captured my attention was the proposed amendment to the Land Act and related laws thereto. It was proposed and resolved that the Government should have authority to acquire land for timely implementation of public works, fast-track construction of the proposed 24 industrial parks and other investment projects.
The rationale behind the ‘desperate resolution' is that members of the public act as bottlenecks in the implementation of such investment projects which I entirely do not agree with because the basis of such incidences is nonpayment of adequate compensation, which I think the Government should work on to improve.
The law to do with compulsory land acquisition in Uganda, in my opinion, is well settled and does not in any way require an amendment. The 1995 Constitution of the republic of Uganda as amended provides for the right to own property by an individual or a group by virtue of Article 26 of the same .The law further provides for exceptions under which a person can compulsorily be deprived of his or her property specifically land and these include public safety, public order, morality and for health reasons.
In case any of the above exceptions is proved or justified, the Government the has to make a prompt payment of a fair and adequate compensation to the affected person before acquisition and taking possession of the affected land mindful of the fact that compensation should be based on the actual market value of that land at the time of acquisition of which courts have pronounced themselves on this issue and its well settled. In case any of the parties is aggrieved by the award or process he or she can appeal to the high court even in circumstances where the person refuses to accept payment court upon hearing the parties can set appropriate conditions it deems fit as per the Land Acquisitions Act Cap 226.
The problem with the Government is that it may not be willing to offer adequate compensation to the affected persons and even then it is always not timely so these are the impediments that they ought to be working upon, the promulgators of this resolution seem to share the same thinking with Adam Dell a renowned author and businessman who once said that "One of the things I would love for people to think about is social responsibility. If you are fortunate enough to be someone who owns land, I think you ought to be making the most efficient use of that land possible". Thus, in relation to the foregoing, the public cannot make efficient use of the land due to poverty and other reasons but this does not mean that they should lose their land to the Government under the pre-text of creating investment without adequately compensating them.
In public interest, I would add my voice to Henry Louise Gates also a renowned author and critic who once said that "People who own property feel a sense of ownership in their future and their society .They study, save, work, strive and vote. And people trapped in a culture of tenancy do not". Once the Government reduces this resolution into law, it will literary mean that citizens are merely tenants on their land since the Government may just out of the blue acquire the same without conclusive negotiations
It is my humble petition to the president of the law society and the entire membership to continue engaging the minister of lands, parliamentarians and other stake holders on such issues and policies that are very much likely to affect the existing legal regime about compulsory land acquisition for the better of this country.
The writer is a lawyer