Gangsterism on land eliminated by presidential directives on tenancy peaceful co-existence

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Gangsterism on land eliminated by presidential directives on tenancy peaceful co-existence
Dr. Sam Mayanja

By Dr Sam Mayanja

The scene played out in Gomba District of two criminal gangs hired to protect contested land was a sad spectacle. Criminal gangs cannot be co-investors in a lawful land settlement. Mob gangsters live by the gun and the knife and die by the gun and the knife.

They make money from land grabbers who hire jobless youths from Kampala slums and transport them to the contested land in their tens, sometimes in their hundreds, arming them with various types of weapons ostensively to protect the contested land but in reality, are mercenaries of land grabbers.

The recruiters themselves are ex-convicts who are believed by the law enforcers to have reformed and now offering good services to the public. However, history shows that in reality there is no reformed or retired mob gangster. The groups they recruit to protect land carry with them their dark criminal acts of the underworld.

Land protection however is not by gangsters and mobs under the pay of land grabbers, but by the legal regime which is not a mystery. The constitution confers ownership of land to all citizens of Uganda and vests that ownership in them in accordance with the tenure systems set out in the constitution.

These are four, namely; customary; freehold; mailo; and leasehold. The yet untenured land occupants known as lawful or bona fide occupants are constitutionally recognised to be in possession of land which maybe mailo land, freehold or leasehold, and are constitutionally empowered to security of occupancy on that land over which they have possession.

The sanctity of tenancy as a registrable interest in a title deed is guaranteed under Registration of Titles Act section 59. Whoever is named in that deed is an unimpeachable proprietor of that tenantable interest indicated on the title.

The security of occupancy of lawful or bona fide occupants (bibanja holders) on the tenured land is constitutionally guaranteed and that guarantee is not taken away under the Registration Titles Act.

The constitutional rights of security of kibanja holder have been articulated by His Excellency the President exercising his powers under Article 99 (1), (2) and (3) of the constitution in three Directives which carry the force of law.

The Directives were issued on 22nd August 2013 at Rwakitura, the second on 29th July 2020 to the Minister of Lands and the third issued on February 28th 2022 to the Prime Minister.

The three Directives give six important guarantees of a kibanja holder; that a kibanja owner does not have to kwegula (buy himself out). He cannot buy what is his own. If he is not enable to kwegula he will continue with his kibanja. Anybody who buys occupied land (occupied by the legal bibanja owners) buys more or less air if the two groups are not persuaded to sell voluntarily;

That kibanja owner is entitled to the whole as per the constitution occupancy guarantee; accordingly it is illegal for the landlords to cut off part of the kibanja and give a tiny portion as titled land to the kibanja holder; that in view of the constitution guarantees to the kibanja holder, all evictions involving peasants were halted; That if eviction is ordered by Court still no eviction should be allowed to take place without the consent and direct observation of the District Security Committee (DSC), chaired by the Resident District Commissioners/Resident City Commissioners (RDC/RCC), and direct consultation with the Minister of Lands.

That anybody found engaging in evictions is to be prosecuted according to the law, and that those bibanja holders who were illegally evicted are to be assisted by Government to go back to their bibanja.

Even those bibanja holders on public land are protected under section 59 (1) (a) of the Land Act which prohibits a District Land Board from allocating land that is already owned by a kibanja holder. If land is so allocated when already occupied, that allocation under section 59 (1a) of the Land Act as amended is void and the title issued under such void transaction is cancellable under section 91 of the Land Act without referring the matter to a court.

In addition a leasehold tenancy which has not yet been converted to a freehold under Article 237 (5) of the Constitution and section 28 of the Land Act, but has expired, is protected under clause 4.2 of the Guidelines on the Administration of Land 2005, which specifically enacts that “in exercising the power of a lessor the District Land Board shall not automatically re-enter a lessee’s land. Renewal and extension of leases on initial and full term for all citizens shall be automatic”.

In view of the Constitutional Provisions and His Excellency’s Presidential Directives, there is no room for any gangsterism on land issues. Further there is no room for any confusion in the interpretation and implementation of land law. The Directives of His Excellency must be supported as this is the only path to achieving peaceful co-existence and leading to increased production and poverty eradication.

Dr. Sam Mayanja is the Minister of State for Land

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