East Africa

Uganda: Lands gets $54m from World Bank

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The ministry of Lands, Housing and Urban Development has acquired a loan of $54m (Shs 135bn) from the World Bank to carry out land reforms in Uganda.

In a recent interview with Shifa Mwesigye at the World Bank Conference on Land and Poverty in Washington, DC, Lands Minister Daudi Migereko explains what his ministry wants to do better.

At least 150 cases are filed in court against your ministry, many of them triggered by actions of your junior minister who has been resettling people on contested land. How do you intend to resolve the cases?

We are being sued not necessarily because of the problems of landlords and bona fide occupants; there are other issues. There are several arrangements for handling disputes related to land ownership. I need to look at the particular cases that have been taken to court to be able to comment competently.

The most critical issue is sensitisation. The other one is capitalising the land fund so that we are in position to provide resources for the bona fide occupants to buy out land that belongs to landlords who are not utilising it.

We recently passed the land fund regulations. What we need to do is to capitalise the land fund for people to take advantage of [these]. If we sensitise our people properly on the Land Amendment Act, we will go a long way in minimising the disputes.

The Registration of Titles Act conflicts with the Land Act especially when one buys land from an owner who also sells the same land to another person. If I register the land first, the Titles Act recognises me who has registered it first and not the other person who bought first…

Obviously we realise the conflicting aspects by applying one piece of legislation as opposed to the other. We need to come out and indicate to the Uganda Law Reform commission that there are problems between the Land Act and the Registration of Titles Act.

I am going to take up this matter with the Attorney General and Uganda Land Commission so that harmonisation moves smoothly.

You said people need to look at land as an economic good and not a social or cultural good. How do you plan to change that mindset?

We need to focus on a number of things. We need to get the mindset of our people to change and stop looking at land as a cultural and social commodity but as an economic commodity.

We must get our people from the informal economy to a formal and monetary economy. Then we need to ensure that we introduce modern technology in land development and agricultural production.

That way, the land reforms will confer benefits on our people and ensure that our people move from a peasant society to a modern and industrialised society because they will now be focusing on producing for the market and moving into the monetary market economy and settling for commercial agricultural production on their land.

Has the land reform system put in place about six months ago helped improve the registry?

Computerisation of the Land Registry is working very well. The demand we are having is to extend it to as many areas as possible. We want to deliver the message that our zonal offices are working, computerisation of the land registry is not a hoax and that people no longer have to come to Kampala.

They can get their titles from six offices in Masaka, Mbarara, Wakiso, Jinja, Mukono and Kampala headquarters. We are striving to take services nearer to the people.

What is your ministry doing to harmonise the shaky relationship between investors and Ugandans?

The Land Act and the Constitution protect people and their land. The Land Act of 1998 does the same. The National Land Policy also confers protection on people over their land. It is just an issue of sensitisation.

People need to know that when you are approached by an investor, you must know what your rights are in order to move. We want to resolve the issue of an investor who needs huge agricultural land. We need to decide whether the issue is to pay people cash or to relocate them, resettle them and give them an alternative source of livelihood.

That is the debate we should be dealing with because you give people money and they buy bicycles, they marry more women… Then they start claiming that the investors have not paid them.

Now it should be the responsibility of my ministry and government to come up with a clear policy for families and communities affected by these new developments that we should give them other sources of income on which to live.

It is something we are thinking about so that when we talk about investment, there must be clear transformation of people’s lives and communities so that they can say there is this investment that came to our area, we are now living a better life than before the investors came to our area.

Our Constitution is very clear, land cannot be owned by foreigners under freehold or mailo arrangement. The best we can do is to give land to foreign investors on a five-year probationary term extendable to 49 years or 99 years. Foreign investors cannot be given land rights on full-term basis.

Women want to access financial credit to buy and own their own land. They do not have access to collateral which they can offer to banks to get money. How can government help women purchase their own land?

The issue is changing tradition such that a woman can be able to inherit land from her father, grandfather, husband and anybody. Once this is done, it will be a major milestone to ensuring that women’s rights over land are recognised and can be pursued in earnest. When it comes to credit to own the land, the issue is not just credit.

The issue is having means to acquire rights over this land. If it means buying, the woman must be working and must have a source of income. What we are laying emphasis on is creating opportunities.

So, what my government has done is to universalise access to education at primary and secondary level. Once you have universalised access to education, that means one can be in a position to join the job market. You have income and you have disposable income which you can use amongst other things to acquire land and to acquire a title over that piece of land.

How much money are you going to put into funding the implementation of the realisation of women’s land rights?

As ministry of Lands, it is part of our duty to sensitise people about their rights and obligations in as far as land matters are concerned. We have been low on funding. Fortunately, we recently procured a line of credit which will enable marginalised groups like women and clan groups to be in position to acquire rights over land just like individuals.

The loan of $54 million which we are acquiring from the World Bank will help. We are also working with civil society organisations like Uganda Land Alliance which are helping us to drive this point home and sensitise the public on the rights of women to own land. We will be able to get women where they must be in as far as land matters are concerned.

smwesigye@observer.ug

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