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Mengo Bulange House; Buganda Land Board headquarters Offices.

The British Colonial Masters set the Land Problem in Uganda

Uganda today still struggles with the problem of land ownership and Land grabbing, since the signing of the 1900 Agreement between the British Colonialists and the Buganda Kingdom.

When the British Colonialists conquered Buganda kingdom, they entered an agreement to grant Buganda a special status with firearms and a base for the British to fight and conquer neighboring territories.

This pleased the Buganda Kingdom under Kabaka Daudi Chwa, who then accepted to give the British powers over all businesses in the kingdom, including Land.

In turn, the Colonial Masters embarked on land and started using it to fulfill their goals. They could take away land from families and distribute it out in a way that suited them to chiefs as a reward for fulfilling certain tasks.

The land could be given away whether occupied by families, agriculture or without; and the owners remained as squatters on their own land and lived a threatened of being evicted any time by the new owners.

Since then the problem has persisted, affecting many families and individuals, including widows and orphans. Some have been killed in the struggle to claim or protect their land and property destroyed or grabbed as well.

Today, the challenge is mainly driven by the elite and selfish individuals who take advantage of desperate families who may be either ignorant of the Law or do not have the capacity to execute the law to protect or follow up issues on their land up to the courts of law.

In 2017 a Commission of Inquiry into Land Issues was constituted by President Yoweri Museveni to investigate and inquire into the law the processes and procedures by which land is administered in Uganda. Also to inquire and investigate into the role and effectiveness of the Uganda Land Commission in administering public land and the land funded.

The commission has indeed registered increasing cases of land grabbing and unlawful evictions that have affected many communities leaving them with no hope of restoring their property.

But to date, as the challenge increases, the question arises in every community as to what happened to land ownership in Uganda; how did the challenge begin; and who started it anyway? In response to this disturbing question, Dr. Chris Baryomunsi, the State Minister for Housing and Urban planning, says the current challenges of land in the country started in Buganda by the Colonial Masters when they signed the 1900 Buganda Agreement.

“The land problem started with Buganda Kingdom in particular, where the Colonial Masters used land to compromise the leadership of Buganda and took over management of all businesses in the Kingdom; when you look at the mailo land, it was created by those colonial agreements.” Dr. Baryomunsi says.
This remains a task to massively educate Ugandans to understand the laws in place so that they may apply them in defending their rights over land and avoid being cheated, especially on issues concerning Land.

Dr. Chris Baryomunsi says, “We still need to invest in educating the public for them to understand the law, to understand the procedures; like these evictions, which happened in here in the center especially; the law clearly defines the right for the land board under the mailo land system and a right of the tenant.”

Well, the law was set up and seems to be in action; unfortunately, whether lawful or unlawful, evictions have continued every day in the country. Because many Ugandans, especially in the rural villages, are still ignorant about the law, the law breakers have grabbed this as an opportunity. Those who execute eviction do it illegally, whereas those evicted do not know their rights to guard against this illegal activity and therefore need sensitization.

Baryomunsi says, “Many people do not know what the law says, but even some landlords who know what the law says just come and evict people. So there is need to sensitize the public so that people know what their rights are; for instance you cannot just come and evict a tenant even if you are a landlord on a mailo land piece of land, the law is very clear what steps have to be taken but many people do not know.”

“There is a lot of ignorance of the law actually; most of the conflicts on land in this country are issues of ignorance.” He adds.