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Experts demand end to impunity in land conflicts

Lusanja land evictions. File photo

Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Land experts have said that promises by presidential candidates of solving land problems will not yield results if the impunity of the powerful and corrupt officials is not dealt with.

Several presidential candidates have made promises of ending land grabbing and improving land security for the vulnerable.

The National Resistance Movement Party (NRM) in its 2021-2026 campaign manifesto promised to support customary tenants register their land per the law. The government is issuing certificates of customary ownership to customary landowners in West Nile Acholi, Teso and Lango sub-regions.

The Executive Director of Legal Aid Service Providers Network (LASPNET) Sylvia Namubiru, however points out that certificates of customary ownership will not help if the rich and powerful continue to abuse and disregard the law as is the case presently.

Namubiru says that she observed that if the people have no access to the courts and justice, they still end up losing their land.

The NRM has promised to cancel land titles that were issued by district land boards on land that was already occupied by customary tenants. It has also promised to clean up the land registry and cancel multiple titles on the same land.

The ruling party manifesto also promises to fight “entrepreneurs of land conflicts” and roll out public portals of the land information system to facilitate customer searches.

Namubiru notes that ICT has always been effective in solving challenges in land management, but if the same corrupt people running the registry are left to manage the system, then nothing will change.

Dr Fred Muhumuza, an economist says the laws that relate to the registry need to be strengthened to avoid the use of digital systems to cheat individuals of their land.

The Forum for Democratic Change in its manifesto has promised to establish a robust land fund to acquire land commercially and redistribute it to the landless with free title deeds.

In the NRM manifesto, the ruling party promised to increase the land fund from the current 92 Billion Shillings and use the system of willing buyer willing seller to buy off the landlords and deliver titles to Bibanja holders.

However, Dr Muhumuza says the fund was abused when it was placed under the Uganda Land Commission.

He believes that the fund needs to be taken back to the banking system because unlike the Land Commission, the banks were doing due diligence.

Dr Muhumuza says the fund was meant to be a revolving fund in Post Bank where the landlord is paid off and squatters were able to pay back the money over time to the bank and then be handed a title. But when the fund was moved to the Uganda land commission, it became a haven of corruption, he says.



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