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Land grabbers at centre of Kampala woes

By Stephen Kafeero

Yusuf Nsibambi is the chairman of the Kampala Land Board spoke to The Independent’s Stephen Kafeero about disagreements with KCCA and the future.

It feels like all you have had to do for the last two years is fight KCCA over the management of Kampala land. What’s wrong?

Before they came into office we were performing our functions without any interference or direction, but Madam Jenifer Musisi even before taking office, approached the then Town Clerk, Mr. Naluwayiro instructing him to dissolve the Land Board.

We gave an opinion which was also passed onto the legal department and they agreed with us that we are independent. We continued operating normally until after six months. Then we had issues where the ED purported to dismiss the secretary to the board.

I wrote to her indicating that she had no powers. The apparent fight is for land grabbing, key properties that the technical officers wanted us to allocate to some officials and we said no.

What is your interpretation of the recent court ruling in the battle to control the Land Board in Kampala?

I think the court ruling of Justice Solomy Bbosa reiterates our earlier position that district Land Boards are independent of any institution including KCCA. That they are supposed to perform their functions without any control from any person or authority, that the Uganda Land commission only holds land in trust and can acquire land only for government.

It goes on further to say that whatever we have been doing as a board is valid transactions and we can only relate with KCCA in terms of planning and I think this is a very important development.

At a press conference, the executive director was quoted to have said that KCCA is not party to the ruling of the High Court and the people who represented the authority were not their staff. What do you have to say about it?

I was surprised when the ED and her team said that they are not bound because they were not parties. That coming from a lawyer is really surprising because there is what is referred to as judgments in rem. You don’t have to go to court to be affected by a court order.

The ED cannot say that she is waiting for a constitutional case. She keeps shifting goal posts but we are not bothered, we are now performing our functions and the office is open.

The ED also says that there was a lot of rot in the Land Board when she came into office. What is exactly at stake?

She has been saying that and even involved police which took files and for the last eight months but no one has been charged. Not even a single individual has ever come out to claim that we took their land.

Uganda Land Commission is always in the papers about land fraudulently taken and they have been summoned in parliament for selling school land. We have never been summoned for selling or allocating anyone’s land abnormally.

Whatever she says is really in bad faith but I can state for sure the properties that I know which they wanted to grab; the 15 plots I mentioned to the media. The genesis of all this has to do with three prime properties   St Balikuddembe Market, Nakivubo settlement, and Coffee Marketing Board.

How much land does the Land Board control anyway?

We control 15% of all land in Kampala but it is the most prime land. In terms of value it is about 95% of the total value of the land in the city. That is why you see this fight; people thought that you can take over expired leases, properties that appear to be dilapidated and those that are not developed on time.

For us we are saying that in the enactment of the constitution, land was reverted back to the people, you cannot take away people’s rights on the land because there is no longer a reversionary interest especially for citizens and for the non-citizens, if they applied, they have the first option to be renewed.

What will happen when the Metropolitan Physical Planning Authority comes into play?

We will only relate with them when it comes to planning like mailo land owners, Buganda Land Board, and Kampala Archdiocese do. For example, if they want to create a road they go to planning. Actually the nexus between KCCA and us now is planning.

We cannot allocate land without a planning consent. We are an entity outside the jurisdiction of KCCA and we are only housed there because the law presupposes that we shall be housed by the district.

Do you actually have the powers to enforce the decisions that the Land Board makes?

We do. May be if the Ministry of Lands refuses to issue a title then the affected person goes to court. Our role has to do with the allocation and facilitation of registration.

For the time you were not operating at the Land Board, how has land been managed in the city?

There has been an impasse. KCCA could not allocate and we couldn’t but what happened is that they were using the Land Commission to allocate our land because there is a regional land office at KCCA which would facilitate and give them titles like in the instance of Plot 5 and 7 Channel Close Industrial area, two properties on Kimera Close near Gen.

Sejusa’s house then about 14 acres opposite the former Mayor Nasser Ntege Sebagala’s house and so many others. In the process they are using the Land Commission to give out land but in essence those titles are fake to say the least.

At the height of your exit there was the issue of the St Balikuddembe Market lease also. How do you intend to resolve this?

It was already resolved. We cancelled an original offer we had given to KCCA because it breached the understanding. We had allocated to them with a view of subleasing to the vendors.

The ED came out and said that she is not going to give it to the vendors but our original offer was that they give it to the them like what happened in the case of Kisekka market. Because not giving it to the vendors was contrary to government policy, we cancelled her offer.

We gave the offer to a vendor’s organization; a company called SLOWA at a fee of Shs 10,000 called papercom which is allowed in law. They paid the money to the division and KCCA issued the receipt.

They proceeded to get the title from Ministry of Lands and that is where it got administrative and political problems. Now the people who thought that they could sell it to the Turkish company are the ones trying to block the issuance of the title. We advised them to go to court and get an order. I’m sure they are going to get their title.

What is the fate of the files that police took when they raided your offices?

Those files were returned but in a poor state. Unfortunately that’s when we were still fighting. KCCA took them to Sezibwa; the former mayor Sebagala’s residence, and I hear the room wasn’t properly secured and downpour came in and they were destroyed by rain. So we have written to the Inspector General of Police to bring those files back to us.

There are people who consider you as an agent of the lord mayor, your political party and relationship with opposition leader Kizza Besigye as the reason you are being fought at the Land Board, what do you have to say about it?

May be it is turning out that they want to fight me because of my political inclinations however the genesis of the fight has to do with land grabbing especially the three properties that I earlier talked about.

Otherwise if I had played ball I would have no issues at all because when the ED came in and got advise that we where actually independent, for six months she kept writing to us different letters as a board without any problem but when it turned out that I wasn’t going to play along things started to change.

The issue has to do more with land grabbing than politics. But to get backing of government they started writing reports that am FDC, am with Lukwago and Besigye.

Now that court has allowed you to go on with your duties, what plans do you have for management of land in the city?

We want to settle the issue of the files. We want a differentiation between the Kampala Land Office from us as the Land Board. We want to handle the files that are a little bit urgent as most of the leases in Kampala are expiring in November.

These people thought when they expire they will just hand them over to other people. I think it is a critical issue to handle so that we renew people’s leases before any other land grabber takes advantage of that.

We also want to rectify titles erroneously issued by Uganda Land Commission, we believe and still insist that Uganda land commission has no power to allocate land .We want to regularise that or we may end up giving double allocations and get conflicts on the ground.

We also want to assess the losses incurred and we are calling upon all the people that are paying money directly to KCCA in terms of ground rent to contact us so that we can rectify it.  Most banks in Kampala rely on our titles as collateral and it is going to affect the economy as well.

This fight appears to be personal but it is dangerous for the economy. So we call upon government to ensure that Madam Musisi is brought to order.

Taking the big picture what is your reading of how business has been conducted in Kampala for the last two years?

I believe the political wing led by the Lord Mayor had the will to do the oversight and monitoring role but the technical wing came with a confrontational approach. They had a feeling that whoever was in KCC was a bad manager or a thief.

So they are sweeping each and everybody from the system without learning from them. That is a very sensitive place and some leaders or managers had been there for quite some time. They are young and inexperienced in so many issues; this learning process is going to cause us a lot of loss and mismanagement.

In terms of governance, they want to develop this city overnight. You cannot develop a city without the involvement of the people but they are sweeping people off the streets, throwing away the hawkers and everybody causing a lot of confusion culminating to the insecurity going on, they are unnecessarily and arbitrarily making a lot of decisions without the back up of the law.

I see a very dim future unless they change their attitude and approach in the governance and management of Kampala.

Your term of office is to expire in 2014. What is the forward for you?

The moment it ends I have the chance to renew but I will not. I cannot serve under a system where I’m relating with planners headed by Madam Jenifer Musisi. I see her management style not only being confrontational but also lacking.

Perhaps it explains why the KCCA Act insists that for one to be an executive director you must be at a rank of a permanent secretary suggesting that you must have gone through government systems to understand how they really operate. I really wanted to resign. If there was really a proper transition I would have left because I work under a lot of pressure.

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