MATSIKO GODWIN MUHWEZI
While it trended on social media and inspired many memes, the embarrassment of the Lands Minister Hon. Betty Amongi Akena was more telling than it was amusing. When it rains, boy; does it pour!
She has recently defected from opposition politics where she cut her teeth. She happens to hail from a part of the country where disillusionment with land reforms is beyond boiling point and as Lands Minister, she is pitted against inevitable backlash in her course of duty.
She is married to a Member of Parliament who happens to be the son of a former President and in many narratives a patriarch of our nation.
Collapse history a few decades and you will be talking about the daughter in law to a President playing hide and seek with the wheels of justice.
Other goddesses of Uganda’s royal clans have been reduced to teary hapless folks in the house of commons amid accusations and counter accusations of land grabbing.
This is a disruption of the sartorial excellence and poise they portray in their immaculate garbs and regalia.
If we are to ignore the fallacy of royalty and how merit or the lack of it endears one to political positions, we must accept this; in a country where the Lands Ministers must appear before a Lands Probe anything, so many questions will remain unanswered.
One day we are questioning the allowances and retainers of the Commission beyond the budget or oversight of the line Ministry, the next a line Minister is caught in the cross hairs of the same Commission and boom, ricochet.
If we are to blame colonialists for all our problems then we might as well return to communal land ownership before the 1884 Berlin scramble and partition.
We should return Buganda to the Kabaka and accept Busuulu, Envujjo; feudal lords and absentee landlords determining our lots.
Alas, our supposed civility and self-determination have put us in a place where our systems are lacquered with irreconcilable confusions of royalty, privilege, nepotism and subterfuge in resource allocation.
The Banyankole say, “Kyokweshweka gye, ozarwa gye” translated to imply that one’s birth determines a lot of what they become in life. That should be taken with a pinch of salt in progressive discourse.
We can for simplicity say that all our land is either held by individuals as mailo, freehold, communal or belongs to the State in trust.
Then the confusion of kibanja, kyaapa mungalo, Amin Land Decrees, explaining what happened to the land when Amin expelled the Indians, how do they own so much land after so many years away?
How easily did the NRM government move away from the 10-point program which created an illusion of welfare inspired by Marxism?
What happened to the District Land Boards and what is the cost of a mercenary commission in a porous national pocket?
What will the Commission solve where an entire system has struggled? Are we going to resort to Commissions in every sector where performance is questionable?
Every other day, a new law or policy will redefine your relationship with the land and in effect create a new class of people.
If sand is declared a mineral then the sand in your compound could belong to government. Land ownership in this country does not follow normative dictates of distributive justice?
All the good chunks are either in the hands of a royal someone, someone whose parents had a political something back in the day, someone who is a political someone or knows someone who is.
Either that or you risk buying a wetland, a colony of squatters or empeewo (land that may have been sold before and is stuck in inchoate procedures or one whose ownership is contested).
Gone are the days of promising real estate startups and there will not be many small fish at the top of the land grabbing food chain.
Sky scrapers are boning road reserves in the city but we are not revamping urban planning yet. The definition of wetland may vary from person to person, not as the law says.
If the tapestry of land ownership is as intricately woven as we surmise it to be, will the Commission really expose who it needs to expose, will there be consequences sufficient to rearrange the soil profile?
The Temangalo we know is a forgotten tale, I am surprised it even caught the public eye.
The writer is a lawyer and author.