Cash handouts, secret age-limit talks and more
Kampala, Uganda | RONALD MUSOKE | President Yoweri Museveni’s countrywide tour that he says is aimed at defusing what he called “toxic” information about the Land Amendment Bill before Parliament has run into trouble with experts and opposition politicians.
Edmond Owor, the executive director of the Uganda Land Alliance (ULA) told The Independent that the President’s tour “is not only irrelevant, it is also suspect.”
Owor told The Independent that the President should instead be looking critically at some of the people who have been behind the compensation fights that have led to delays in some infrastructure projects.
“It is the politicians and the technocrats in government who already know where these projects are going to pass who go evicting people off the land expecting big moneys,” he says, “It is just about Museveni dealing with these people in his government.”
Judy Adoko, the executive director of the Land and Equity Movement in Uganda (LEMU), a national land rights advocacy organisation also told The Independent on Sept. 14 that “the President is wasting his time because Ugandans are in agreement on land: In a paper published on her NGO’s website on July 15, this year, Adoko recommended to MPs not to amend Article 26.
Adoko noted in her paper that compulsory acquisition of land should always be a last resort, and always be subject to checks and balances on state power to ensure that citizens are protected. She urged the government to either amend the Land Acquisition Act or enact a new law to operationalize the procedure for implementation of Article 26 of the Constitution.
President Museveni on Sept.04 embarked on what he said was a countrywide tour aimed at defusing what he called “toxic” information about the Land Amendment Bill tabled in Parliament in July.
Dr. Julius Kiiza, a lecturer of political economy and public policy at Makerere University told The Independent that since it is not in dispute that Museveni has faced stiff resistance on the land issue, the question should be why he has very keen interest in amending the Article on compulsory land acquisition in the Constitution.
“The land article could be synchronized with Article 102 (b) because they are both a means to a Presidential monarch,” he said.
Kiiza says Museveni would have found the land issue as easy as the previous contentious issues that he dealt with only that this time people cannot relinquish the only thing that is a source of their livelihood.
“People do not have alternatives,” he says, “They would have let him have his way as usual if they were employed in the services sector or involved in other modes of business but a scenario where about 70% of the population directly depends on land for survival makes tampering with land very dangerous.”
Wilfred Niwagaba, the MP for Ndorwa East who also doubles as the Shadow Attorney General told The Independent that the land issue is at the heart of Museveni’s desire to stay in power.
“He has always wanted to build a monarchy; you know he calls himself the Ssabagabe (the king of kings) and he cannot be the Ssabagabe without having full control over land.”
Niwagaba says Museveni wants to have full control of land and add it to his tools of patronage so he can give it at will.
Godber Tumushabe, the Associate Director of the Great Lakes Institute for Strategic Studies (GLISS), a Kampala-based independent think tank says it is noteworthy that Museveni decided to move around the country giving talk shows while his cadres; the presidential advisors and Resident District Commissioners, took a backseat.
Niwagaba says this shows that Museveni’s tour is “definitely not about land.”
Niwagaba said the people Museveni has been talking to are not the ones that will make the laws he wants unless he wants to subject the issue to a referendum. He said all indicators are that he is already campaigning for 2021 with impunity.
“He pays one radio station in the area but forces all the other radio stations to stop their programmes and air his campaign,” Niwagaba said, “So these people interrupt their programmes and their commercials to air a programme that is not paid for.”
“He doesn’t even allow free debate to get people’s concerns on the issue. His handlers stage-manage callers and the station is forced to use unknown numbers where only the people agreed upon call and praise Museveni and of course plead that he stands again in 2021.”
Niwagaba told The Independent that Museveni has been meeting the NRM leaders in the towns where he has been holding the radio talk shows asking them about the politics of the area and what people think about the age limit removal issue.
Niwagaba also wondered whether Museveni is the one supposed to be doing what he did. “What for example, does Museveni want to say about the land issue that the Land Ministry or Attorney General cannot say?
“Better still, since he is already forcing radio stations to air these programmes, why doesn’t he go on Radio Uganda (UBC radio) and direct the rest of the stations to air? Why does he have to go around the country to do that?”