Public Officials Fuel Land Wars – Report

A local think tank, Kigo Thinkers, says pronouncements by political leaders, including ministers and the president, are fuelling land wrangles in the country.

In a paper released last week, Kigo Thinkers argue that attempts by political leaders to resolve land wrangles outside the judicial system create, rather than end, conflicts.

“It is a common practice that instead of addressing land matters legally, many people seek the intervention of army officers, the police, resident district commissioners or ministers,” reads the paper, titled ‘Policy dialogue on the land question in Uganda.’ “Matters even get to the president, who has sometimes publicly challenged court rulings.”

Last year, the state minister for Lands, Idah Nantaba, traversed different parts of the country making instantaneous decisions regarding different land disputes, in some cases ignoring court orders.

Land problems galore:

Uganda is facing a myriad of land ownership issues, with hundreds of peasants being evicted from land they claim to be bona fide owners of. Land grabbing has also come to the fore with some big government officials blamed for taking aantage of vulnerable locals. Districts with mineral resources have seen an escalation in land conflicts.

From the remote pockets of Karamoja to gold-rich swathes in Mubende to the aanced Kampala suburbs, land disputes have become a perennial concern.

The Uganda National Land Policy, which was approved by cabinet in February 2013, was expected to put a stop to all those issues. However, according to the study by Kigo Thinkers, it is unlikely to happen unless politicians stop meddling in land disputes.

“The government commissioned the new national land policy to introduce fundamental reforms, but it remains silent on political interventions in land disputes appearing to be sponsored by the state or state officials,” it notes.

Policy weakness:

The study adds that Uganda’s land policy depicts a narrow understanding by the government of the role that land should play in Uganda’s development.

“In the current policy and legal framework, land is to a great extent perceived as a vehicle for capital accumulation, particularly for the accumulation strategies of certain class: investors, and industrialists,” it says

Dr Rose Nakayi, a law academic at Makerere University, recently said in The Observer that the focus of the land policy neglects the economic and social interests of other classes in Uganda like peasants. She added that the policy also clouds out non-commercial functions of land such as settlement and small-scale subsistence activities.

Kingo Thinkers say government has proved to be poor manager of Uganda’s land, partly because it is hugely influenced by interest groups, including from outside Uganda.

Source : The Observer

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