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How rot in the Land registry is impacting on Ugandans

Part of church land that has been fenced off by unknown people in Mbale municipality using forged land documents from Mbale lands registry. Photo by David Mafabi

By David Mafabi

KAMPALA– Mr Darlington Wanetosi, a peasant acquired land from his father in Mbale district under the customary land tenure system and wanted it registered and titled.

He surveyed it and armed with the land agreements and land survey maps, he moved to the land registrar in Mbale to have a title for his land only to find another person in possession of a land title on the land he acquired from his father.

“And I was told that the land belongs to another person who was also given by his father and yet this is my father’s land where we have lived for the last sixty fifty four years,” Wanetosi said.

He explained that he has never given out the land agreements not even the survey maps and wonders how this person acquired a land title from the land registrar.

And like many other people who acquire land under the customary land tenure system, Wanetosi has moved to the Mbale district land registrar in search of answers on how his land was given out without success.

“At one time, I was told to go directly to the Ministry of Lands in Kampala but when I looked at the distance, I resigned, armed myself with a machete to wait for this man and let fate take over,” Wanetosi said.

Wanetosi is not alone. Many a peasant in Uganda know the difficulty involved in trying to get titles of their land using customary land tenure system and many of them have fraudulently lost their land to land grabbers.

At every district land registry, the story reads like a soap opera, with all the elements of a thriller; lost trust, betrayal, and mystery.

Mr Martin Musamali, a lawyer and chairman Mbale District Land Board, says fraudsters in the country are forging land titles with the latest technology largely because the government’s system of registering and keeping authentic land records collapsed nearly a decade ago.

A study commissioned by Makerere University law school and Human Rights and Peace Centre on land governance in Uganda says the Land registry is disorganized, making it a common place for two or more persons to possess a title deed for the same land.

The report released last December says that although Article 237 of the 1995 Constitution and Sections 3 and 4 of the Land Act 1998, Cap 227, recognise customary tenure as one of the incidents of tenure in Uganda, it has not gone a long way to contribute to security of tenure, especially for the poor, vulnerable and marginalised groups focusing on the elderly, women and the youth.

The report titled: ‘Land injustice, impunity and state collapse in Uganda: says security of tenure for customary ownership of land would guard against land grabbing that has become common, as foreign companies and government displace the poor families in the ongoing search for large scale farming.

The report explains that although rural communities’ customary land rights are protected under the Ugandan constitution, in practice, these rights are being violated across the country.

The report findings were released by Dr Zahra Nampewo, the director human rights centre and peace in Kampala.

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