A multimillion sugar investment has stalled in Amuru district, northern Uganda, because private investors Madhvani Group could not secure 20,000 hectares of land.
The attempt to get the said land, which was backed by government, led to a conflict between investors and the local community (Lamogi community) who are backed by politicians and traditionalists.
The Acholi-Madhvani case, as it has come to be known, is one of the many cases that have failed to take off due to undesirable land tenure systems and legislation in the country.
The impasses are not help by the existing laws either because they don’t really promote land use but rather spell out land ownership and the different tenure systems under which one can own land.
Because of such standoffs, experts now are calling for reforms within land laws to promote land use other than focusing on land tenure systems, ownership, acquisition, and protection of women, children and indigents.
The promotion of land development will increase land use and productivity which will in turn help reduce poverty as there will be increased household incomes over a period of time.
The experts under Kigo Thinkers, a think tank group emphasize that laws should empower land owners to increase farm production, infrastructure development and act as source of capital to fight poverty.
A policy paper titled “Policy dialogue on the land question in Uganda” was launched at Makerere University by Kigo Thinkers with deliberations from different stakeholders.
The policy paper is a collection of views and proposals about land tenure reforms and tenure insecurity as the cause of conflict amongst Uganda’s communities.
The policy paper, a result of a policy dialogue held on 24th July this year, confirms that land conflicts, often fueled by politicians and government officials for political gains, are challenges leading to loss of life, 52 years after Uganda got independence from the colonialists.
Much of the land in Uganda is not being used to it full capacity due to poverty levels among land owners and conflicts surrounding ownership of this land.
Uganda land tenure systems customary, mailo, leasehold, freehold tenure with the majority of it still being held under the customary tenure.
Prof. Morris Ogenga Latigo speaking at the launch of the policy paper stated that the current greatest land reform challenge in Uganda is the irrational focus on land ownership rather than land use.
He says people are laying claims over huge chunks of land whilecorrupt members of society are hiding ill-gotten wealth through land purchase without developing it to benefit people. “Rather than exploit land to generate wealth and create employment, we are content with mere ownership,” Latigo, a retired politician, now a commercial farmer said.
He added: “In the meantime, large tracts of land remain underutilized, or even redundant, while the community suffers the contradiction of poverty amidst plenty,” he stated.
“Our land laws and the recently launched land policy are largely about ownership, rights of women, the poor, bibanja holders, etc saying little about how we must, as a country and people, collectively use this God given resource to benefit us and transform our country.”
Dr. Rose Nakayi, a lecturer at Makerere law school teaching land laws believes that the law should go beyond defining land tenure systems and how to obtain land titles but also in detail outline how land can be used.
She said laws are silent on how title holders can be able to contribute to the development of the country because land is an essential pillar of development.
Dr. Nakayi revealed that there are progressing provisions in the law (the Land Act) that needs to be implemented and find out what has worked and what has failed.
“When we look at the land issue in Uganda not all answers can be found in the law. We can’t look at the land question from the side of the law only because the law is a product of political leverage. Our laws are like sausage made from bad meat,” Dr. Nakayi
She adds: “We cannot look at the land question purely through the law, because the law is a product of political leveraging and might not necessarily always represent what we or the people may want as an outcome.”
Latigo bashed cultural norms that prevent people from exploring new and better land uses like commercial agriculture saying people should look beyond subsistence use of land and look at attracting investment to build a g modern economy and prosperous country.
Norah Owaraga one of the founders of Kigo Thinkers said land tenure system is a root cause of conflicts over land and ownership. She said there is need to come up with reforms that work for the country.
Source : East African Business Week