By Joseph Kimbowa
KAMPALA - I recently met some media people, one top editor, at one of Uganda's leading newspapers who asked me to assure them that Buganda's titles are genuine.
I thought they were joking, but they backed up their skepticism with the words of a certain radio commentator who has consistently told people that Mengo prints fake titles.
Concerned, I asked them to explain what they meant by ‘fake titles.'
"People say Buganda Land Board has a printer of titles but because of the volatile relationship between Mengo and the central Government, time may come and the Government cancels/disregards all Mengo titles," they said.
Then it dawned on me that if a person supposed to be the lynchpin between the ordinary Ugandan and the information source is ignorant about a matter so straightforward, then we have a lot of work on our hands.
A similar query had been raised during the land awareness week in Mubende where BLB partnered with the ministry of Lands and Action Aid to teach people about land rights and responsibilities.
Residents there had also wondered whether Mengo titles should be trusted. Luckily, the ministry's spokesperson answered this query by assuring everyone that all land titles issued out by BLB are printed by Government.
So, in the same vein, I told this editor that first, Buganda Land Board, or the Mengo government for that matter, does not print land titles. All land titles are approved and printed by government.
I told them that the only role of BLB, as administrators of Kabaka's land, is to facilitate the process of acquiring a land title for any individuals who applies for lease titles on kingdom land.
I told this person that just like other private individuals, real estate dealers or institutional landlords such as the catholic or protestant churches, Buganda has land on which any person can apply for a title.
The only difference is that Buganda land is registered in the names of ‘The Kabaka of Buganda' and someone can only get lease titles of, say, 49 or 75 or 99 years. But these leases, unlike others, have an automatic renewal close on expiry, meaning that no one can apply for your lease when it nears expiry.
Going back to ‘fake' titles, I told the editor that Kabaka's land comprises all land that was returned in 1993 under the Traditional Rulers (Restitution of Assets and Properties) Act. Many people refer to this land as the 350 square miles of Kabaka.
Then there is also land that was returned in the subsequent Memorandum of Understanding between the Kabaka of Buganda and President Museveni in 2013.
This entire land is titled and it is on these titles that some kibanja holders apply for leases through Buganda Land Board.
I told the editor that when BLB receives lease applications, they are taken through various hands of professionals including surveyors, valuers, physical planners and lawyers.
When these are satisfied with the conditions of the individual's documentation and survey results, their file is then taken to the respective local government authorities such as KCCA or district land offices who then start on the process of issuing a land title for that individual.
Just like any other property dealers, BLB is monitored and supervised by the respective land administration authorities.
So, I assured the editor that all this talk about Mengo land titles is diversionary and should be treated as such.
I had managed to convince this editor but saw it prudent to share the same with the wider public.
The mandate of printing land titles lies with government and remains so. Property dealers or consultants sell plots of land and accompany them with land titles from government.
It is in this same style that Buganda Land Board operates on kingdom land - nothing less!
The writer works with Buganda Land Board.