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Civil Society Groups Contest Proposal to Disband District Land Boards

The interim report of the Catherine Bamugemereire Commission reportedly recommended that district Land Boards should be disbanded. It also suggested that a Lands Authority is established to take over management of land matters.
02 Mar 2018 10:53
The Commission of Inquiry into the Effectiveness of Law, Policies and Processes of Land Acquisition Land Administration, Land Management and Land Registration in Uganda. Civil Society says it should widen its scope.
A number of civil society groups have opposed a suggestion for the disbandment of the District Land Boards and local area land Committees. They say that disbanding District Land Boards and related structures, will not resolve the land management problems in the country.

They were speaking at a consultation meeting hosted by the Africa Institute for Energy Governance (AFIEGO) in Kampala, to review the recommendations in the interim report of the Commission of Inquiry into land matters.  The team included 17 national Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) and Community Based Organizations (CBOs).

They included National Association of Professional Environmentalists (NAPE), Centre for Constitutional Governance (CCG), South Western Institute for Policy and Advocacy (SOWIPA) and Kanungu Youth Initiative for Environment (KYIE) among others.

District land boards were set up under Article 241 of the Constitution. They are supposed to hold and allocate land in the district, which is not owned by any person or authority. They are also supposed to facilitate the registration and transfer of interests in land; and to deal with any other matters connected with land in the district, in accordance with laws made by Parliament.

However, some of the District Land Boards have been blamed for the illegal land transfers including allocation of wetlands and forest reserves to land grabbers.

The interim report of the Catherine Bamugemereire Commission reportedly recommended that district Land Boards should be disbanded. It also suggested that a Lands Authority is established to take over management of land matters.

But a statement signed by AFEIGO Chief Executive Officer, Dickens Kamugisha says they were dissatisfied with some of the recommendations including the suggestion to establish a Land Authority and the disbandment of District Land Boards.

The Commission suggested that the Land Fund be capitalized and restructured to work effectively under the proposed Land Authority. It also suggested that a futuristic Land Bank be developed to relieve the government of heavy financial burdens and delays associated with land acquisition for public works.

But members of the Civil Society insist that land challenges largely arise due to political and leadership failures in the country. The groups are of the view that political patronage, political manipulation, selfish and greedy leadership and pervasive corruption are the real causes of land challenges in Uganda and should have been highlighted in the interim report to the President.

The Commission, according to the civil society, should have considered that District Land Boards (DLBs) and Area Land Committees (ALCs) have been weakened through underfunding, influence peddling and lack of adequate independence to execute their mandates.

They call on the government to urgently re-establish the District tribunals to operate alongside District Land Boards to handle land matters at local governments. Unlike before, these institutions should be well facilitated but with harsher penalties against those who default on the rules.

The Commission recommended the reduction of current land tenures from four to perhaps three; freehold, customary freehold and leasehold and that all government land to be held under freehold by the State.

The Commission which has been in operation since May 2017 is supposed to Inquire into the Effectiveness of Law, Policies and Processes of Land Acquisition Land Administration, Land Management and Land Registration in Uganda.