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Land woes in Buganda

Mayiga has threatened to expose some elder Baganda he says were behind the youth who demonstrated at Bulange.
Mayiga has threatened to expose some elder Baganda he says were behind the youth who demonstrated at Bulange.

1900 Buganda agreement ghosts return to haunt Kabaka’s government

A group of Buganda youth recently besieged the Mengo headquarters of Bulange demonstrating against what they said was Katikkiro Charles Peter Mayiga failure to prevent the Buganda Land Board (BLB) from harassing people. According to the youth it is Mayiga’s reluctance to deal with the highhandedness of BLB, a body responsible for looking after Kabaka’s land that had led to one of his subjects taking him to court in a historical law suit.

The youth who were led by one Badru Sonko and carried placards denouncing the Buganda Land Board demanded that Mayiga should look into complaints about BLB to save the dignity of the Kabaka.

“We believe Mabirizi has a genuine case but he is suing the wrong person. It should be the Buganda Land Board to be sued instead,” Sonko told the media at the demo.

In an unprecedented move in July, one of Kabaka Ronald Mutebi’s subjects Hassan Male Mabirizi Kiwanuka sued the Kabaka saying he has no right to levy charges on land occupied by tenants. In his lawsuit Mabirizi argues that the Kabaka does not own land but holds it on behalf of the people hence its unconstitutional for him to charge fees on it.

Talking to one newspaper recently Mabirizi, a lawyer by profession, denied that there was an invisible hand behind his lawsuit. “I grew up in village and I know how people suffer to raise the fees for the registration. For someone to say there is an invisible hand behind my case is to mean I am incompetent to think by myself,” Mabirizi who says he belongs to the Buganda Kkobe clan says.

This Buganda Land Board (BLB) a few years ago embarked on an exercise of registering all people settled on what the referred to as Buganda’s land. The tenants in the rural parts of Buganda are supposed to pay 100,000/- for registration. Those in the more urban Buganda counties of Kyaddondo and Busiro on the other hand pay 600,000/. Kyaddondo and Busiro mostly comprise the districts of Kampala andWakiso.

Mabirizi is also seeking a declaration that the collection of a 10 per cent charge on the sale of land registered in the Kabaka’s names as per the Restitution of Assets and Properties Act is unconstitutional.

Kabaka Mutebi has appointed Bashir Juma Kizito as his representative to file responses to the petition. In his affidavits, Kizito contends that the case is misplaced, lacks merit and is premised on misinterpretation of the law. Kizito, a surveyor, claims the petition is riddled with falsehoods calculated to mislead court.

He contends that registration of occupants on the official mailo land in the Kabaka’s name is meant to protect their interest and that occupants have voluntarily registered with BLB. According to the affidavit, the 10 per cent charge of the sale value of the land is meant to obtain the Kabaka’s consent on the transaction.

Mayiga lashes out

However Katikkiro Mayiga while addressing the Buganda Lukiiko recently said this demonstration was the act of a few misguided youth.

“Yes there may be a few individuals of the Buganda Land Board who are mistreating people but this does not call for a demonstration,” Mayiga said He also accused the media of over blowing the situation whereas when there are bigger issues inMengo they are not given the necessary publicity.

Mayiga threatened to expose some elder Baganda he said were behind the youth who demonstrated at Bulange.

However one media observer likened Mayiga’s attack on the media for Mengo’s land woes to wanting to kill the messenger who delivers the bad message.

The 1900 ‘great land grab’

Under the 1900 BugandaAgreement in what some historians term as the ‘great land grab ‘ the land tenure system was divided into three categories. The peasants were allocated land on free hold tenure whereas the royals, chiefs and ministers got mailo land and what was termed as Crown land was that occupied by forests, lakes, rivers and administrative centres remained in the hands of the colonial administration.

Out of a total of 19,600 square miles of Buganda land, the Kabaka of Buganda was allocated 350 square miles . The queen mother and other royal also got some chunk. About 1,000 chiefs most of whom were signatories to the Agreement plus other prominent persons received 8,000 square miles. The chiefs however are fraudulently said to have allocated themselves more than what had been offered them in the agreement registering the land in the names of their sons and daughters even including unborn children.

Another big chunk of land which was 9000 square miles commonly referred to as ‘mayiro akenda’ comprising land covered by forests, rivers, lakes, and administrative headquarters was left under the control of then colonial administration hence referred to as the Crown Land.

Among other beneficiaries, the three missionary societies in existence in Uganda as private property, and in trust for the native churches shared 92 square miles whereas Mbogo (the the then head of the Moslem faith) received 24 square miles.

The princesses, sisters and relations of the Kabaka were also allocated 90 square miles and also as one of the reverberations of the 1900 Agreement are complaining that when the central government was returning land titles to the Kabaka it erroneously gave away their land as well and want it returned to them.

Millions left landless

This left millions of Baganda peasants landless and almost slaves to the feudal chiefs who had shared the loot of the 1900 agreement. Though people did not own the land before but now the chiefs or their children who had acquired land title for the land could legally evict them and force them to pay fees also known as ‘envujjo’.

Efforts by Idi Amin’s land decrees or the Land Act have failed to correct this mistake hence now boiling over into demos and suits against the Kabaka which was unheard of. Hence the youth protest at Bulange and an unprecedented suing of the Kabaka by one of his subjects may be a warning for Mengo for something worse to come unless there are drastic changes in Buganda’s land tenure system.


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