The chairperson of the commission of inquiry into land matters, lady justice Catherine Bamugemereire has said it is not right for government to compulsory acquire public land and give it away to private investors.
Government has for over two years been struggling to have constitutional amendments to facilitate the compulsory acquisition of land for its projects passed by parliament
Speaking during the launch of a report about the situational analysis on compulsory land acquisition management in Uganda done by LASPNET, Bamugemereire said government has on many occasions encountered resistance due to skeptism from members of the public especially in absence of a well-developed definition of public interest.
“It has become common for government to acquire land and vast pieces of land to give to private investors for them (investors) to grow sugar canes in Amuru or develop something in Apaa,”Bamugemereire said at Sheraton hotel on Wednesday.
“Is that an issue of public use or purpose? Is that public interest? Those issues remain wanting.”
Citing article 237 of the Constitution that vests land in the hands of the Ugandan citizens, the lady justice said acquisition of public land by government and give it to public investors is not right and deprives them of their rights.
“Land has always been a delicate issue and is increasingly being so in today’s context of rapid growth and changes in land use and the need for people to hold onto their land for cultural, economic and social purposes and a number of issues have to be fulfilled by government before compulsory acquisition.”
The lady justice said that before government acquires public land for any of it projects, it must convince the public that the possessions of the land is necessary for public use, in the interest of public defence, safety, order, morality or health.
She warned that there should be a fair and adequate compensation prior to the acquisition of the land.
Govt right on compulsory acquisition
The chairperson of the commission of inquiry into land matters said government has a right on compulsory acquisition of public land despite the owners not willing in a bid to carry out a number of projects for the benefit of society but warned of some flaws.
Bamugemereire said there is need for the public to be in the now of the intended project and approval as well as a well laid compensation process.
“It is important government to know that when compensating people, you need to leave them better than you found them. If you there is a school or health centre on a public land, it makes no sense compensating district leaders in form of money. Just build another facility for relocation. In the same way, it is better you build a house for elderly people than compensating them in form of money.”
Lady Justice Bamugemereire said compensation should in all ways be adequate by following resettlement action plans.
She also warned against corruption tendencies in the compensation process by emphasizing transparency.
The analysis on the compulsory land acquisition management in Uganda done by Legal Aid Service Providers Network(LAPSNET) found out that there are a number of issues including delays in compensation, undervaluation and use archaic laws .