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Reasons for the landless Buganda Land Board

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Once upon a time, there was a public body which went by the name, the Buganda Land Board. This body was set up under Chapter X11 of the 1962 Constitution to manage public land in Buganda. This public body had its roots in the 1900 Agreement (Uganda/Buganda Agreement) under which various chunks of land of varying sizes were grabbed from natives and given away to various individuals, chieftains and religious groups.  The chunks of land given away were neither surveyed nor did they have any known tenancy category in the Kiganda culture.  The colonial authorities eventually regularised this land grabbing and in 1908 enacted a legislation known as The Land Law of June 15, 1908. This law created two tenancies.  Under Section 2 thereof, a tenancy known as Mailo was created.  The section specifically stated to hold land in a manner described in that section “will be known as holding Mailo, and land of this description will be called Mailo”. Section 5 created a second tenancy which was described as that land which a chieftainship shall hold for the time he shall hold the chieftainship. It stipulated that he shall be entitled to take all the profits from that land, but when he leaves that chieftainship, the successor chief will take over the land. In the words of Section 5(c) “to hold land in this manner, will be called to hold official mailo.” The actual demarcation of both the mailoand the official mailo tenancies was not done until five years later when the Buganda Agreement (Allotment and Survey) Law of 1913 was enacted.

Since the mailo was under the control of individuals, or bodies to which it was allocated, it was necessary to put in place a statutory public body to manage the official mailo and herein lay the origin of the Buganda Land Board.  The chieftainships holding official mailo were diverse, covering saza chiefs, gombolola chiefs, land held under chieftainships of the Katikiro, Omulamuzi, Omuwanika and others described in the 1900 Agreement and elsewhere in the subsequent laws as official mailo.  Indeed even the chunk of land allocated to the Kabaka under the 1900 Agreement was converted to official mailo under Section 2(b) of the June 15, 1908 Land Law. The Buganda Land Board under whose authority the administration of the officialmailo was placed was a statutory body of the Uganda Protectorate. It should be noted that at the conclusion of 1900 Agreement, the Uganda Protectorate consisted of only one province and that was the Buganda Kingdom. The 1900 Agreement in Article 3 envisaged “other Provinces” which were in future to be added to the Province of Buganda Kingdom and indeed when the final demarcations of the Uganda Protectorate were made, three other provinces namely; the Western Province, the Eastern and the Northern provinces had all been created and the four formed the Uganda Protectorate which eventually emerged into the current independent Republic of Uganda.

When the Uganda Protectorate gained Independence, the Constitution of the newly independent State of Uganda, so fit to dedicate the whole chapter on the administration of Public Land.  This was Chapter XII and under Article 118, Public Land in Uganda was to be administered by three sets of bodies.  The areas of Uganda which were administered under federo units, public land was under Land Boards, while those under districts; public land was administered by District Land Boards.  The rest of Uganda, Land was administered by the Uganda Land Commission. The Buganda Land Board was under Article 118(3) recognised as the body administering public land in the Buganda Kingdom.  It should be clarified that the public land in Buganda under the Buganda Land Board went under the nomenclature of official mailo.  All the Statutory bodies administering public land in Uganda namely; Uganda Land Commission, Federal Land Boards and District Land Boards,  were Constitutionally subject to the scrutiny of the Auditor General and, therefore, accountable to the public.

The wind of change which blew across the political terrain of the country swept away the 1962 Constitution and a new Constitution known as the 1967 Republic Constitution was promulgated. Like the 1962 Constitution, the 1967 one, also dedicated a whole Chapter on the administration of public land. This was Chapter XII and Article 108 under that chapter   specifically set out the Land Commission of Uganda as the body to administer all the public land in Uganda. For clarity, Article 108 (5) specified the various land entities vested in the Land Commission. These included  every official estate held by a corporation sole by virtue of the provisions of the official estate Act and any land which immediately before the commencement of the 1967 Republican Constitution was vested in the land board of a kingdom or a district. Thus, the public land which had under the 1962 Constitution been administered by the various Land Boards of federal units or districts were transferred to one single public body namely;  The Land Commission of Uganda.

Thus, the official mailo under the Buganda Land Board was never confiscated; it was simply under the constitutional order of the day transferred to a public body under which the administration of all public land in Uganda was consolidated.

The duplicity of giving different names to public land depending on its location in Uganda, for example, Buganda Kingdom where it had been called official mailo was streamlined with all other public land in the country under one body namely; The Uganda Land Commission.

It was public land being managed by Buganda Land Board whose administration was transferred to the Uganda Land Commission. The 1967 Constitution like the one of 1962 created the position of an Auditor General for Uganda to which all public offices and institutions had to submit for scrutiny and were, therefore, subject to public accountability.

For avoidance of doubt, the 1967 Constitution, created Article 126 for the continuance in force of the system of mailo to emphasise the difference from the public land which had been called official and which by the constitution had been streamlined by being moved from the Buganda Land Board to the Uganda Land Commission.

The current Buganda Land Board is not a successor in title to the Buganda Land Board of the 1962 Constitution.  It is not a statutory body and has no mandate to administer any public land by whatever name called.  Its legal status going by its instrument of registration is that of a private limited liability company with one (1) shareholder. It has no accountability to the public and no queries can be raised by a public body on how the company is run.  It cannot legally claim ownership of public property by virtue of the Traditional Rulers (Restitution of Assets and Properties) Act 1993.

That Act having been enacted before the coming into force of the 1995 Constitution, must be construed with such modifications, adaptations, qualifications and exceptions which may be necessary to bring it into conformity with the constitution.

The 1995 Constitution cannot be construed to resituate public assets to institutions by whatever name called which never owned them in the first place, from whom they have never been confiscated and by whom no official public accountability is exacted by the Constitution. Public assets can only be managed by individuals or body of individuals or corporations which can be scrutinised by the Auditor General and, therefore, accountable to the Public.

The Constitution has vested the administration of public land in the Uganda Land Commission, District Land Boards, or Regional Land Boards and all these public bodies are scrutinisable by the Auditor General and, therefore, accountable to the public.   Under the 1967 Constitution, when all public land had been put under the Land Commission, any monies accruing from the Land so vested under the commission had to be paid to such authority as Parliament may prescribe. This mandate now falls to the three bodies indicated above which are constitutionally recognised to administer public land in Uganda. Buganda Land Board being a private limited company has no obligation to account for any monies or benefit derived from the Land under its administration.

It is in this scheme of things that it is imperative for Buganda Land Board Limited to return the land it is illegally holding and profiteering from unjustly.  Public Assets cannot be in the hands of a private limited company.

The handlers of the Buganda Kingdom, must be humble and realise the Constitutional mistake of holding onto Land Titles and assuming proprietorship where no law obtains conferring ownership of public land to a cultural institution. This is the decent way to do it and this action shall go a long way in restoring respectability of the cultural leadership.

The ball is squarely in the hands of the sole shareholder of the Buganda Land Board Company Limited who has the unique historical opportunity to redeem the tremendous goodwill which surrounded the return of traditional/cultural rulers to the Uganda political scene, but which, if left with no action taken, shall surely disappear into oblivion.

Extracted from the New Vision

Livelihood

Police harassment: Six land rights defenders from Kawaala have been summoned for interrogation.

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A photo of old Kampala police station where defenders are expected to report tomorrow. 

By Witness Radio – Uganda team

As forced evictions and land giveaways to investors accelerate in Uganda, police continue to be deployed to criminalize the work of community land and environmental rights defenders supporting communities to push back illegal evictions.

For many years ago, hundreds have been arrested, charged, abducted, and beaten for their work by machete-wielding men, police, and army sidelining with investors or grabbers.

The latest to fall prey is a group of six community land rights defenders and a local council vice-chairperson of Kawaala zone II, Lubaga Division, in Kampala district. The group and other defenders have been leading a pushback campaign since 2020 against the multimillion dollars drainage channel being implemented by Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA) with finances from the World Bank under Kampala Institutional and Infrastructure Development Project (KIIDP-2)

This project first impacted Kawaala Zone II around 2014, when a channel diversion was constructed. The current planned expansion will widen that channel and require forced evictions across an area at least 70 meters wide and 2.5 km long.

The group must appear at the Old Kampala Regional Police headquarters criminal investigations directorate tomorrow, 29th/06/2022 before the Deputy Assistant Inspector of Police (D/AIP) Domara Patrick at 9: 00 AM local time.

The defenders summoned include; Kasozi Paul, Busobolwa Adam, Kabugo Micheal, Serugo Charles, Ssemanda David, Sserukwaya David, and vice-chairman of Kawaala zone II Mr. Patrick Kato Lubwama.

According to the police summons, a copy obtained by Witness Radio – Uganda does not mention the charge nor state the complainant (s).

The chairman of the affected group of people Mr. Kasozi Paul believes these are retaliation for their strong resistance to land grabs being spearheaded by KCCA to construct a drainage channel.

“We have always been targeted by KCCA and other fellow opportunists that we are sabotaging the drainage construction which is not true. We refused to give away our land without being compensated. We believe this is the reason for the summons. We shall go and meet the police tomorrow,” Kasozi stated.

When Witness Radio contacted Deputy Assistant Inspector of Police (D/AIP) Domara Patrick who signed those summons declined to share details of the charges instead he invited the Witness Radio team to visit his bosses.

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Corporate Accountability

Signs of harmful projects with financing from development institutions are spotted in Uganda…

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By Witness Radio Team.

The growth of a country is discerned by great leaders and innovators who see opportunities out of darkness and transform their areas from nothing to success. Those are great leaders whose interest is to see the developments in their countries and the well-being of their citizens.

Every single day, countries all over the world receive investors that acquire loans, grants, and donations to implement mega projects that are seemingly expected to develop host countries. countries and investors borrowing the money Often, countries and investors portray how these projects improve the livelihood of the browbeaten, au contraire, they have left many broken families, poor-dirty homesteads, and shattered dreams.

Uganda is one of those countries, whose citizens have paid a price for reckless or unsupervised and profit-led international investment. In a bid to implement its industrial policy, the country has welcomed both foreign and local investors with interests in the fields of extraction, industrial agriculture, carbon credit tree plantation, mining, infrastructural projects, and many others.

It has received billions of dollars from different financiers including commercial banks, Pension Funds, and International Development Finance Banks or institutions, among others. For instance, the World Bank has invested more than 20 Billion Dollars since 1963 and currently

Every project comes with its own chilling story. More often their stories are unheard by the World. Witness Radio – Uganda surveyed some projects in Uganda. This study revealed agony, illegal evictions, abject poverty, environmental degradation, and loss of life among others, as some of the consequences suffered by the would-be beneficiaries of these international funded projects across the country.

In the capital of Uganda, Kampala, over 1750 families were forcefully evicted from a city suburb, Naguru, for Naguru- Nakawa housing estates.  11 years down the road the project that was highly hyped is to take off on the grabbed land. Pleas from the victims of the eviction to regain their land have all fallen on deaf ears.

About 80km away from Kampala is the island district of Kalangala surrounded by the World’s second-largest lake, Victoria, and known for palm growing. When the palm-oil project was introduced to residents they were given the impression that it would improve their livelihoods and create job opportunities.  Instead, it has dumped thousands into poverty after their land was grabbed by BIDCO, a Wilmer international-funded project. People lost land and now work on plantations as casual laborers. The neighboring communities are accusing BIDCO workers of sexual and gender-based violence.

In the South-Western District of Kiryandongo, multinational companies including Agilis Partners Limited, Kiryandongo Sugar Limited, and Great Seasons SMC Limited with funding from The United States Agency for International Development (USAID), The Department for International Development (DFID) of the United Kingdom, and Common Fund for Commodities among other financiers are forcefully evicting more than 35,000 people. The eviction has been on since 2017.

Workers that worked on a World Bank Project in Soroti, in the far east of the country, are accused of sexually harassing minors. Several young girls were defiled and left pregnant. Despite the government being aware of this none of the pedophiles have been brought to book, the World Bank-funded project in the Eastern Town of Soroti left several underage girls defiled and impregnated.

In late 2020, residents of Kawaala zone II woke up to the hail of armed men and graders evicting and destroying their properties to implement a multimillion-dollar project funded by the World Bank. The project is being implemented by the Kampala Capital city Authority (KCCA) on behalf of the government of Uganda.

The above-listed and other projects, on the other hand, continue to perpetuate violence and judicial harassment against leaders of Project Affected Persons (PAPs) and community land and environmental rights defenders because of their work that resists illegal evictions and destruction of the environment among others.

Although project implementers such as government entities accuse local communities of occupying land targeted for projects illegally, in most cases victim communities have rights over these pieces of land because their settlement on the same land can be traced to have happened generations ago.

No matter how people are negatively impacted being by these harmful projects, financiers continue to release more money to the government and investors. The banks aim at profit margins other than the livelihoods of the people. In Bulebi village, Mbazi parish, Mpunge Sub County in Mukono district, Akon’s futuristic city is about to lead to the eviction of over 1000 residents whose entire lives have been built on their land.

In April last year, American rapper Aliaune Damala Badara well known for his stage name AKON visited Uganda in search of land for constructing the city. On the same business trip, he met President Museveni Yoweri Kaguta and expressed his interest in building a futuristic city with its currency. The president ordered the Ministry of Lands, housing, and urban development to look out for free land for his city.

However, on 7th Jan 2022, the Uganda Land Commission showed the Minister for Lands, Housing, and Urban Development “Hon Judith Nabakooba” land that was proposed for the Akon city. According to the Uganda land commission, the land is Freehold Volume 53 Folio 9 measuring I square mile.

This has sparked outrage amongst the affected as they were never consulted or consented to allow the project in their community. According to community members that Witness Radio interviewed, they said they heard the distressing news of Akon city through the Media.

The community said no official from the ministry has ever approached them about their land giveaway. “Our country is full of land evictions and evictors begin in that way. There has been no official coming on the ground to officially inform us about the project and neither have we heard any official communication of compensation.” Obori said.

Residing in the attractive village surrounded by freshwaters, the community asserts this has been the source of livelihood and advised the government to get alternative land for the City.

Controversies surrounding the land giveaway and ownership of the area still exist. A section of residents have protested and vowed not to surrender their land for the City. They claim to have acquired freehold titles from the Mukono lands board.

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Corporate Accountability

Breaking: over 350,000 acres of land were grabbed during Witness Radio – Uganda’s seven months ban.

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By Witness Radio Team.

As the onslaught on civil society heightens, its space continues to shrink which has bearing on the services they render to the communities. Witness Radio, was among the 54 organizations suspended by Uganda’s National Bureau for Nongovernmental Organizations on August 20th, 2021. The actions are amongst the recent forms of attack on civil societies in Uganda. Other numerous attacks include arrests of rights activists, harassment, tortures, and office- break-ins at night by security operatives who move away with valuables.

The effects of this suspension were felt by communities facing land grabs across the country. For seven months while the organization was suspended, over 300,000 people were evicted from their land and couldn’t access specialized and prompt legal assistance.

Witness Radio Uganda, globally known for its campaign against community land-grabs couldn’t assist these victims of land grab since it risked facing further sanctions from the Bureau in case it intervened. However, last week, there was some relief, when Uganda’s National Bureau for NGOs lifted suspension and certified its operation.

According to Mrs. Bulyerali Joan, the Head Legal at Witness Radio – Uganda, the organization conducted a review of the evictions that happened during the suspension. With information and assistance from some lawyers, local journalists, and community land and environmental rights defenders across the country, the evictions watchdog was able to document cases of hundreds of thousands of Ugandans that were either forcefully evicted or received threats of evictions while in its limbo.

The ban imposed on Witness Radio coupled with the disruptive impacts of COVID- 19 resulted in the surge of eviction cases, especially in areas where the organization had a presence. Throughout the ban, without access to swift and prompt legal support, the communities resorted to sharing with the world their ordeal.

She further noted that the evictions were conducted in disregard of the law on evictions. “I was shocked to see powerful people and companies take advantage of our suspension to escalate the evictions of vulnerable communities that received our assistance. The evictions did not comply with the land eviction practice directives. None of them was preceded by legal court orders.”  She noted.

According to the Land Eviction directives, issued by the former Chief Justice of Uganda, Bart Katureebe, evictions shall be preceded by valid court order, properly identifying the persons taking part in the eviction, and upon presentation of formal authorizations. The police and local authority of the area shall be notified and shall be present to witness the evictions, among others.

Based on the data gathered by the team, various communities across the country were left dispossessed by land grabbers without any form of assistance. Others have received threatening messages with intentions of dispossessing them off their land.

During the period under review, over 300,000 people across the country are believed to have been threatened with evictions, while 350,000 acres of land were either grabbed or on verge of being grabbed.

“However much, we gathered this information, we expect the cases to be higher because some evictions go unreported either due to the remoteness of the areas or other related factors.” One of the collaborators observed.

The evictions were extremely violent.  They were characterized by kidnaps, arrests and detentions, torture that often-caused unexpected grief to the communities.

Among the most affected districts include Kyankwanzi, Mubende, Kassanda, Hoima, Buikwe, Wakiso, Kikuube, and Bulambuli districts.

In some of the mentioned districts, the Lands, Housing, and Urban Development Minister toured and halted the evictions but the evictors continued unabated.

Mr. Kimazi Experito, a journalist based in Mubende, attributed the rise of evictions to the organization’s suspension which denied the evictions-affected communities access to specialized legal assistance.

He said Witness Radio has offered support to over 20 land-grab-affected communities in Mubende with legal support. “Witness radio is a game-changer that brought back lives of evicted communities to normal,” he lauded.

“Mubende is one of the fastest-growing areas because of gold and other minerals as well as factors related to fertile soils. Currently, it is one of the hotspots of evictions. Opportunists used this chance to grab land from people with full attention. Without the defenders, it’s often hard for people to get justice since local people are not much informed about land laws.” Kimazi explained.

Engineered by powerful people in public offices, multinational companies, and politicians using state machinery including the army and national police, forced evictions to continue to affect food sovereignty and threaten the role of indigenous communities to protect the environment.

During the same period, President Yoweri Museveni stopped any eviction without the approval of the Resident District Commissioners. However, legal experts warned that the move is to usurp the powers of the Judiciary. In a statement signed by Pheona Nabasa Wall, the Uganda Law Society President noted that the directive undermined the role and independence of courts in handling eviction matters.

That notwithstanding, “Occasionally, the residents are not given any opportunity to negotiate with the landlords. Even when the government obliges to pay landowners, neither does the government nor the evictor compensate for the damaged property. During evictions, properties that were made for their life end up being destroyed in seconds which causes lifetime misery.” Paul Kasoozi, a community land rights defender stated.

With different tactics aimed at alienating the poor from their land, it has been established that the police and the army continued to play a huge role in the largest forms of violent evictions through torture, arbitrary arrests, and detention and instilling fear and pressurizing the local communities to vacate their land on orders of the evictors.

Many of those community members who oppose land evictions end up being kidnapped, tortured, or arrested and detained to silence the community. It takes support from an organization defending communities’ land rights to intervene for such communities to get justice.

Days before the lifting of the suspension imposed on Witness Radio, communities neighboring the Katta Barracks in Bulambuli district, were violently evicted by the Uganda People’s Defense Forces under the alleged command of Lieutenant Colonel Mukiibi Julius without offering alternative resettlement.

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