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Reasons for the landless Buganda Land Board



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

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Breaking: Witness Radio and Partners to Launch Human Rights Monitoring, Documentation, and Advocacy Project Tomorrow.



By Witness Radio Team.

Witness Radio, in collaboration with Dan Church Aid (DCA) and the National Coalition for Human Rights Defenders (NCHRD), is set to launch the Monitoring, Documentation, and Advocacy for Human Rights in Uganda (MDA-HRU) project tomorrow, 22nd February 2024, at Kabalega Resort Hotel in Hoima District.

The project, funded by the European Union, aims to promote the protection and respect for human rights, and enable access to remedy where violations occur especially in the Mid-Western and Karamoja sub-regions where private sector actors are increasingly involved in land-based investments (LBIs) through improved documentation, and evidence-based advocacy.

The three-year project, which commenced in October 2023, focuses its activities in the Mid-Western sub-region, covering Bulisa, Hoima, Masindi, Kiryandongo, Kikuube, Kagadi, Kibale, and Mubende districts, and Karamoja sub-region, covering Moroto, Napak, Nakapiripirit, Amudat, Nabilatuk, Abim, Kaabong, Kotido, and Karenga districts.

The project targets individuals and groups at high risk of human rights violations, including Human Rights Defenders (HRDs) and Land and Environmental Defenders (LEDs). It also engages government duty bearers such as policymakers and implementers in relevant ministries and local governments, recognizing their crucial role in securing land and environmental rights. Additionally, the project involves officials from institutional duty bearers including the Uganda Human Rights Commission (UHRC), Equal Opportunities Commission, and courts, among others.

Representatives from the international community, faith leaders, and business actors are also included in the project’s scope, particularly those involved in land-based investments (LBIs) impacting the environment.

The project was initially launched in Moroto for the Karamoja region on the 19th of this month with the leadership of the National Coalition for Human Rights Defenders (NCHRD).

According to the project implementors,  the action is organized into four activity packages aimed at; enhancing the capacity and skills of Human Rights Defenders (HRDs) and Land and Environmental Defenders (LEDs) in monitoring, documentation, reporting (MDR), and protection, establishing and reinforcing reporting and documentation mechanisms for advocacy and demand for corporate and government accountability;  providing response and support to HRDs and marginalized communities; and lastly facilitating collaboration and multi-stakeholder engagements that link local and national issues to national and international frameworks and spaces.

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Kiryandongo leadership agree to partner with Witness Radio Uganda to end rampant forced land evictions in the district.



By Witness Radio team.

Kiryandongo district leaders have embraced Witness Radio’s collaboration with the Kiryandongo district aimed at ending the rampant violent and illegal land evictions that have significantly harmed the livelihoods of the local communities in the area.

The warm welcome was made at the dialogue organized by Witness Radio Uganda, Uganda’s leading land and environmental rights watchdog at the Kiryandongo district headquarters, intended to reflect on the plight of land and environmental rights defenders, local and indigenous communities and the role of responsible land-based investments in protecting people and the planet.

Speaking at the high-level dialogue, that was participated in by technical officers, policy implementers, religious leaders, leaders of project affected persons (PAPs), politicians, media, Civil Society Organizations (CSOs), and development partners that support land and environment rights as well as the Land Based Investments (LBIs) Companies in the Kiryandongo district, the leaders led by the District Local Council 5 Chairperson, Ms. Edith Aliguma Adyeri appreciated the efforts taken by Witness Radio organization to organize the dialogue meeting aimed at bringing together stakeholders to safeguard community land and environmental rights in order address the escalating vice of land grabbing in the area.

During the dialogue, participants shared harrowing accounts of the impacts of land evictions and environmental degradation, including tragic deaths, families torn asunder, young girls forced into marriage, a surge in teenage pregnancies, limited access to education, and significant environmental damage which have profoundly affected the lives of the local population in Kiryandongo.

Participants attending the dialogue.

In recent years, Kiryandongo district has been embroiled in violent land evictions orchestrated to accommodate multinational large-scale agriculture plantations and wealthy individuals leaving the poor marginalized.

According to various reports, including findings from Witness Radio’s 2020 research Land Grabs at a Gun Point, the forceful land acquisitions in Kiryandongo have significantly impacted the livelihoods of local communities. It is estimated that nearly 40,000 individuals have been displaced from their land to make room for land-based investments in the Kiryandongo district. However, leaders in the district also revealed in the dialogue that women and children are affected most.

The Kiryandongo Deputy Resident District Commissioner, Mr. Jonathan Akweteireho, emphasized that all offices within the Kiryandongo district are actively involved in addressing the prevalent land conflicts. He also extended a welcome to Witness Radio, acknowledging their collaborative efforts in tackling and resolving land and environmental issues in the district.

“Ladies and gentlemen, we all know that the land rights together with environmental rights have been violated in our district, but because we don’t know what our rights are, because we have not directly done what we could to safeguard our rights and now this is the time that Witness Radio has brought us together to safeguard our rights. I want to welcome you in Kiryandongo and be rest assured that we shall give you all the necessary support to help us manage these rampant cases,” Ms. Adyeri said in her remarks during the dialogue meeting.

The team leader at Witness Radio Uganda, Mr. Geoffrey Wokulira Ssebaggala expressed gratitude to the participants for their active involvement in the dialogue and revealed that Witness Radio’s objective is to find a holistic solution to the escalating land disputes in Kiryandongo district serving as an example to other districts.

“We are here to assist Kiryandongo district in attaining peace and stability because it stands as a hotspot for land grabbers in Uganda. Mismanagement of land conflicts in Uganda could potentially lead to a significant internal conflict. Everywhere you turn, voices are lamenting the loss of their land and property. Kiryandongo, abundant with ranches, suffers from a lack of a structured framework, which amplifies these land conflicts. The influx of wealthy investors further complicates the situation,” Mr. Ssebaggala disclosed.

Within the dialogue, Mr. Ssebaggala emphasized the need for the Kiryandongo district council to pass a by-law aimed at curbing land evictions as an initial step in addressing the prevalent land injustices.

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Kiryandongo authorities decry rising cases of land disputes



The LC5 chairperson of Kiryandongo, Ms Edith Aliguma Adyeri, has saidnland dispute has impacted on people’s lives, dignity and children’s education in the district.

Just like other parts of Uganda, conflicts over land in Kiryandongo arise when individuals – who often are blood relatives – compete for use of the same parcel of land or when members of the community lay claim over ownership of unutilised government land.

Ms Adyeri further said land and environmental rights affect people both directly and indirectly, “and we are not hearing it from afar. It is already together with us [here], it has already affected us!”

She was speaking at a meeting which sought to discuss alternative remedies to salvage the appalling land and environmental rights situation in Kiryandongo at the district headquarters on Thursday.

The one-day dialogue was aimed at reflecting on the plight of land and environmental rights defenders, local and indigenous communities and the role of responsible land-based investments in protecting people and the planet.

It was attended by private companies, members of civil society and local government officials and organised by Witness Radio – an advocate for land and environmental rights in Uganda – in partnership with Oxfam, and Kiryandongo District leadership.

“Some people have even died, families are broken up, and brothers are not seeing eye-to-eye because of land rights. Access to justice is equally becoming very difficult because when you hire one lawyer that
lawyer will talk to learned friends, and they agree. They leave you in suspense,” Ms Adyeri said.

According to her, some children have not accessed education because of land and environmental rights.

Mr Jonathan Akweteireho, the deputy Resident District Commissioner of Kiryandongo, said enlightened people especially should be sensitive to the historical injustice of this area.

“We can never handle the Bonyoro land question without thinking about that history. It will be an injustice to the incomers, to the government and to the leaders who don’t understand,” he said.

“We had 38 ranches here which on the guidance of these international organisations, especially the World Bank, the government restructured them, allowing people to settle there, they were never given titles and up to today, there are big problems in all those ranches,” he added.

Mr Jeff Wokulira Ssebaggala, the executive director of Witness Radio, said that a well-functional land sector supports land users or holders and investors, reduces inefficiencies and provides mechanisms to resolve land disputes.

Mr David Kyategeka, the secretary to the Kiryandongo District Land Board, said the issue of land rights is very clear but the major challenge has been sensitising the locals to know what rights he or she expects to enjoy out of this very important resource.


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