Uganda: How Candidates Plan to Manage Land, Natural Resources

Presidential candidates have an uphill task to address the land and natural resources question in Uganda. The 11 candidates have less than a month to deliver their manifestos to potential voters ahead of the January 14 election.

Key among the contentions in land matters is the ability of Ugandans to own and freely access land as stipulated in the 1995 Constitution. This is proving to be a big challenge for the current regime in a country with varying land tenures from customary, to leasehold, freehold and mailo.

Article 237(1) of the Constitution states that land belongs to the citizens of Uganda, and Article 26(1) protects the right to own property, either individually or in association with others.

In September, the Constitutional Court ruled that the Commission of Inquiry into Land Matters appointed by the President on December 8, 2016 to look into land matters across the country was illegal. The Commission was restrained from exercising judicial powers.

The ruling perhaps presents the precarious situation of the land question in Uganda and key to the politicking and sloganeering in the current presidential campaigns that in many cases put issues of land and natural resources on the fringes in candidates' manifestos.

The Justice Catherine Bamugemereire-led commission was to inquire into the effectiveness of law, policies and processes of land acquisition, administration, management and registration in Uganda.

According to Justice Bamugemereire, the commission received complaints totalling 8,528 from 123 districts, out of 135. This was during the period of inquiry from 2017-2019. This shows that rather than utilise Uganda's vast arable land for development, a large proportion of these are either under conflicts or mitigation.

Two key questions that presidential candidates ought to address during their campaigns are on land and natural resources.

By 2014, the Ugandan government estimated that there was 6.5 billion barrels of oil in place, but recoverable oil was estimated to be between 1.8 billion and 2.2 billion barrels. Oil production was expected to reach heights of between 200,000 and 250,000 bpd (barrels per day) based on the discoveries.

However, in June last year, Daily Monitor reported: "It emerged recently that during ongoing negotiations for the proposed East Africa Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP), recoverable oil volumes now stand at 1 billion barrels instead of the estimates of between 1.4 billion and 1.7 billion barrels that officials previously quoted."

Fast forward to September, 2020 the land matters, which are intertwined in handling natural resources, a lot still needs to be unpacked.

Source: The Monitor

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