PARLIAMENT – The government has withdrawn the controversial Constitution Amendment Bill No. 2 of 2017, which sought to give it (government) absolute power to acquire land for development without first compensating the owners.
Mr Mwesigwa Rukutana, the Deputy Attorney–General while explaining the government’s new position said the government needs time to carry out further thorough consultations about the issue.
“We are the sponsors of this Constitution Amendment Bill. However, subsequent to presenting it for the first reading, the government discovered that the Bill required extensive consultations and this explains why we are withdrawing it to allow us time to hold further consultations,” Mr Rukutana said during plenary yesterday.
“And I beg to move that this Bill is withdrawn pending further consultations,” he added.
Mr Jacob Oulanyah, the Deputy Speaker of Parliament, said: “The Bill is accordingly withdrawn from Parliament.[When] it is ready, it will be brought back by the Executive.”
The Prime Minister, Rukahana Rugunda, among others, seconded the motion and added that the Bill touches the livelihoods of all Ugandans.
The Constitution Amendment Bill was tabled before Parliament last year but it had since stoked controversy with concerns that if passed into law, it would deny people’s right to land, which is a fundamental source of livelihood on which 80percent Ugandans derive sustenance.
The Constitutional Amendment Bill 2017 purposes to amend Article 26 and grant the government – both central and local – power to compulsorily take over property in public interest without prompt, fair and prior compensation.
With this amendment, government would be able to immediately take possession of property upon depositing the determined compensation without waiting for the court process.
The withdrawal of the Bill comes at the time an August 2018 report by the House Committee on Legal and Parliamentary Affairs, which recommended that it be rejected.
The legal and parliamentary affairs committee argued that if such a Bill is enacted into law, it would have legal and practical challenges.“And this would affect the implementation of its provisions,”
“The Bill may be challenged for being unconstitutional. It is important to note that Article 2 of the Constitution provides that the Constitution is the supreme law of Uganda and it shall have binding force on all authorities and persons through Uganda,” the report says.
The committee also referred to case law, among other cases, the Uganda National Roads Authority v. Irumba Asumani & Peter Magelah one, which barred the central and the local governments from taking possession of private land without compensation.