Need for addressing land grabbing in Uganda

 By Eric Kashambuzi

Kabaka of BUganda Ronald Mutebi. Most land in the country used to belong to the monarchies.
Kabaka of BUganda Ronald Mutebi. Most land in the country used to belong to the monarchies.

The 1992 Odoki Commission reported that the major land complaint during the consultation was about land grabbing. Contrary to expectations, the NRM government has enhanced land grabbing by the rich from the poor at an alarming rate especially in Buganda despite complaints directly to the president in 1989.

Land grabbing has been facilitated by Article 29 (2a) of the 1995 Constitution that allows Ugandans to move freely, reside and settle anywhere in Uganda. In the Luwero Triangle the guerrilla war (1981-86) massively depopulated the area that has been resettled largely by non-Baganda. In other parts of the country there has been a rapid demographic shift to urban slums especially in the Kampala City with serious political, economic, social and cultural outcomes. Land tenure and land use need to be given urgent attention in the post-NRM regime. Because it is complex, Ugandans need to address the land question without delay beginning with Buganda where land grabbing has been greatest. Ultimately the solution will be political following extensive and inclusive consultations.

Before the 1900 Uganda Agreement all the land belonged to the people under the care of clan heads (Bataka). In consultation with Buganda regents, Commissioner Harry Johnston, decided to overhaul the customary land ownership and skipped land owners and their clan heads. All the uncultivated, forested and wetland – about half of the total land area – became Crown Land. The other settled half was distributed among the Kabaka, members of his family, regents and chiefs.

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