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Ministry calls for independent municipal land boards

By Arnest Tumwesige

Added 27th February 2019 05:06 PM

Gulu has only 138.15 hectares of public space and yet 180.37 is required as of 2017

Ministry calls for independent municipal land boards

A recently renovated house at Kaunda ground. The Aga Khan Foundation is claiming about five acres of this public space. Photo by Arnest Tumwesige

Gulu has only 138.15 hectares of public space and yet 180.37 is required as of 2017

The ministry of local government has renewed its demand for the establishment of municipal land boards rather than leaving all powers of land control to the district land board.

Hajj Issa Gumonye, the commissioner of urban administration, said that over time, district land boards have severely mismanaged land in urban councils by selling the land off to individuals.

Gumonye added that if urban authorities have the authority over their land and they would be in charge of allocation, management and leasing of their land as it was before the 1995 Constitution.

The commissioner noted that over time, the ministry has noted the mismanagement and allocation of land in the urban councils without the approval of the urban authority.

Despite having one representative on the seven man-committee of the land board at the district, the commissioner said the voice of the majority who come from the district overshadows the views of the urban representatives.

"It is evident that districts hardly have land in the sub-counties and the only vacant and open spaces are within urban areas. So land boards target these areas," he added.

Gumonye made the demand from Gulu Municipality when he was attending a stakeholder meeting on the validation workshop for city-level policy briefs on local economic development and open spaces and land management.

Five years ago, Gumonye tabled a memorandum and handed it over to President Yoweri Museveni but since then, no response has been received.

Situation in Gulu

During the meeting, two consultants hired by the United Nations Capital Development Fund told stakeholders that Gulu Municipality advised the municipal authority to develop some of the remaining open spaces so that they are utilized by the public.

The report findings compiled by Paul Mukwaya, Peter Wegulo, Denis Tugume and Peter Kasaija indicate that Gulu has only 138.15 hectares of public space and yet 180.37 is required as of 2017.

Some of the public spaces available include a stadium, green/open spaces, playgrounds, markets, school grounds, cemetery and library. Pece and Layibi divisions out of the four divisions have been reported to have a deficit.

"In order to preserve these public spaces, there is a need to effect strict enforcement but also develop them so that people can appreciate their value to them," the researchers said.

Francis Barabanawe the municipal town clerk applauded the move, adding that almost 85% of the land transactions by the district land boards are in the municipality.

Barabanawe said this has greatly affected the planning of the area and guiding the population on the physical development of the area.

The town clerk cited the recent renewal lease of about five acres of land from Kaunda ground to Aga Khan Foundation, a decision which the municipality is still challenging.

"In the past municipalities did not have contract committees but this is no more today. It is, therefore, possible to have our own land boards than relying on the district," he added.

The main purpose of the consultancy which was carried out in Gulu and Mbale municipalities was to assist them to develop well researched and evidence-based policy recommendations on how to improve the delivery of municipal public goods and service that contributes to equitable economic growth.

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