The Katikkiro of Buganda Kingdom, Mr Charles Peter Mayiga, On Wednesday launched an impassioned defence of the kingdom’s mailo land tenure system and blamed the rampant land conflicts in the country on weaknesses of the responsible government agencies.
Appearing before the Commission of Inquiry into land matters in Kampala on Wednesday, Mr Mayiga, who was accompanied by Prince David Wassajja and several kingdom chiefs, defended the mailo land tenure system, saying it allows occupants on Kabaka’s land to acquire leasehold land titles at a reasonable cost on favourable terms.
In its interim report to the President, the Commission recommended the abolition of mailo land tenure system, arguing that it is responsible for lack of proper planning and zoning of developments in peri-urban and urban centres. It instead recommended for the reduction of current tenures from four to three; freehold, customary and leasehold.
But the Katikkiro on Wednesday said the problem of congestion, poor planning, slums, poor sanitation and haphazard developments can only be blamed on the lack of effective laws and poor implementation of planning laws and policies.
“Mailo land tenure does not prohibit or preclude urban authorities from formulating and implementing town plans within clearly demarcated development zones or set standards. In any case, it cannot be argued that poor planning and slummy conditions in other parts of Uganda are attributable to the mailo land tenure where it does not exist,” Mr Mayiga said.
“It is doubtful that the fusion of land tenures will miraculously result in proper planning of urban areas in absence of effective laws and policies as well as effective and deliberate implementation mechanisms by urban and town authorities,” he added.
He explained that whereas mailo land tenure has a problem of overlapping and sometimes conflicting interests on the same land between registered land owners and occupants, he said one of the main causes of rampant and wanton evictions of occupants of land is paralysis that arises out of the duplicity of ownership by registered proprietors and tenants, bonafide or lawful occupants on land.
“We consider that the solution to this problem lies not in abolition of mailo land tenure or fusion of tenures but in the layering of ownership of land as well as the provision of leasehold certificates of titles to the landless groups occupying or using registered land. The protections under the current law for bonafide occupants, bibanja holders or lawful occupants of land such as payment for nominal ground rent and prohibitions of evictions without court orders have not provided sufficient security of tenure for these categories,” he added.
He explained that Mailo land tenure has many benefits such as the Kyapa Mu Ngalo policy, which allows occupants on Kabaka’s land to acquire leasehold land titles at a reasonable cost on favourable terms are available for all to see.
“Under the Ekyapa Mu Ngalo scheme, individuals (former unregistered bibanja owners or occupants) have obtained land titles under subsidized fee arrangement and without discrimination. All categories of occupants have been given a chance to regularize their occupancy on land and to obtain leases,” he said.
The Katikkiro added that to address land grabbing and overall crisis in the land sector in Uganda, the government must address institutional weaknesses in entities relevant to the law and order sectors as well as the land sector in general such as the Ministry of Lands and district land boards, police, the Directorate of Public Prosecutions (DPP) and the Judiciary.
“Because of the institutional weaknesses, these bodies delay, neglect and or fail to investigate and prosecute land related crimes in a timely and judicious manner,” he said.
Mr Mayiga also urged government to utilize the land fund to help unregistered occupants on land to acquire leasehold land titles on willing seller-willing buyer basis.
“We consider that if well managed and funded, the idea of land fund under Section 41 of the Land Act would solve the problem rather quickly. We believe this is where government should focus its energies provided always that the land fund is used in a transparent and a non-discriminative way against one group in favour of another. The Land fund should be used to address problems of tenants by occupancy wherever they exist across the country. It should also be used on a basis of willing seller – willing buyer as well as on the principles of fair and prompt compensation pursuant to Section 41 (6) of the Land Act.”
He also recommended that government holistically reviews and revises the Land Act to improve land management and administration as well as introduce effective and quick land dispute resolution mechanisms across the country.
“In this connection, we support the Commission’s interim recommendation that District Land Tribunals should be re-established as fully time dispute resolution mechanism with an expanded membership. We recommend that the government ensures the Land Division of the High Court should get more judges to make timely judgements and clear case backlog.”