Here Is Why The Land Amendment Bill Must Be Rejected

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The proposed constitutional amendment bill which seeks to amend article 26 of the constitution to enable government compulsorily acquire land is still facing stiff opposition from all corners.

AFIEGO, a public policy research and advocacy non-governmental organization, is the latest group to mount opposition against the bill which MPs of the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM), resolved to withdraw from parliament before President Museveni during a heated caucus meeting last week.

During a discussion meeting on the bill with its partners from five districts in the Albertine Graben in Hoima district last month, the participants agreed that the amendment would have dire implications if passed into a law thus arguing parliament to reject it based on specific reasons.

AFIEGO and its partners contend that the land (Amendment) Bill 2017:

  • Violates citizens’ right against property deprivation until payment of fair and adequate compensation as enshrined under article 26 (1) of the constitution
  • Irrelevant because the same article 26 already empowers government and/or a local government to compulsorily acquire private property/land as long as that property is required for public use…
  • The bill is in bad faith and is intended to shield government from her own obligation of paying citizens prompt payment of fair and adequate compensation in compulsory powers of acquisition
  • If successful, the amendment will force citizens to accept unfair compensation or force them to undertake unaffordable litigation which will legalize injustices against vulnerable citizens
  • It will disempower property/land owners from challenging government’s decisions on compulsory acquisitions because of high court costs among other factors when such decisions are unjust and unfair
  • Stops affected land owners from challenging government’s decisions on acquisition and/or possession even where acquisition is not for public use which contravenes article 50 of the constitution
  • Contravenes article 24 because it deprive citizens of their survival and this should be construed as torture, cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment which article 24 provides against
  • Against article 128 of the constitution as it seeks to empower the executive to involve courts in matters that are not before it
  • Since 1965, government has failed to put in place regulations for assessment and payment of compensation as required by section 20 of the land acquisition act of 1965
  • If enacted, the bill will render the Bamugemereire-led Land Commission of inquiry irrelevant despite the fact that billions of tax payers’ money is being spent on the commission
  • It’s pre-mature because for years, government has been promising the country a constitutional review process where experts would collect views from citizens across the country based on those views, and government on required constitutional reforms for peace, harmony and development
  • While the bill allows the government to take over private property even when there is a dispute over compensation, it does not allow the land owners the luxury to stop the acquisition until payment of compensation
  • It will render all those disputing compensation landless as they pursue the legal process
  • It will make government reluctant to perform her duties of ensuring that institutions and officers of government such as district land boards recorders at sub-counties, area land committees and others are financially empowered and skilled to deliver effective services to citizens
  • It will enable government to continue defaulting on her obligation to implement and enforce the land act which provides for land tribunals at districts
  • Government should leave the constitution and instead fight corruption where government institutions illegally issue land titles in forest reserves, parks and game reserves, wetlands and sell off government land because of corruption
  • Doesn’t address the remedies for those who opt for relocation, but disagree with the terms of relocation. In effect, the bill reduces compensation to only cash
  • Project-affected people will continue to suffer grave injustice of delayed compensation, unfair and inadequate compensation which in turn cause other injustices such as family breakdowns, collapsing of health and education service, food insecurity, water crises and others
  • The bill indirectly and illegally affect many other provisions of the same constitution including article 237 that guarantees the powers of the citizens on land ownership