MBALE. Some locals in Mbale on Monday said they would lynch the families of any MP from Bugisu sub-region should support the contentious Constitutional Amendment Bill on compulsory acquisition of private land.
The threat was made amid fears that MPs could be manipulated and ‘bought’ off to pass the bill which will deprive Ugandans of the only resource they have.
Under Uganda’s laws it a crime to threaten a person with violence or to participate in a lynching. However, the Mbale outrage ties in with the people’s emotions which are running very high in the face of widespread land-grabbing by well-connected individuals across the country.
The government recently introduced a proposal to amend Article 26 of the 1995 Constitution to facilitate government acquire land for public infrastructure project without being delayed by compensation bureaucracy.
The amendment proposes: “Where the owner of property or any person having interest in or right over property objects to the compensation awarded under the law made under clause (2)(b), the Government or Local Government shall deposit with court for the property owner or any person having an interest in or right over the property, the compensation awarded for the property, and the Government or Local Government shall take possession of the property pending determination by the court of any dispute relating to compensation.”
The people expressed their concern while interacting with MPs at a rally organised to raise awareness about the land bill on Sunday at Cricket Ground in Mbale district.
Opposition MPs are currently on a countrywide campaign rallying Ugandans against the proposal.
Safiyi Mafabi, chairman of elders in Mbale municipality, argued that the government has all the resources; the MPs have become so greedy and can easily be tempted and bought off.
He said as people of Masabaland, they strongly object to the land bill as land is the only resource they have left.
“We object to the passing of the bill in the strongest terms possible,” he says. “Should you sell us, we shall organise ourselves and we shall kill your families because the bill is unconstitutional, its making us slaves in our own country,” he threatened.
Opposition to the government’s line continues to spread across the country even as there appears to be a backing-down at State House.
The President last week agreed with the ruling party’s parliamentary caucus that while public projects should not be delayed, the people must not be disenfranchised.
At the Mbale rally another person, Micheal Mafabi Magombe, appealed to the MPs to stay faithful to the voters and not get tempted by money.
“The government has all the resources and merceneraies,” he noted. “Selling your voted will be denying us right to life and it’s our land. Don’t get tempted and be lured by big sums of money.
Winnie Kizza, leader of opposition in Parliament, reassured her audience, maintaining that the emerging consensus is that there is no need to amend the Constitution. The government, she said, can use existing laws to acquire land from the people as long as they are compensated promptly ad prior to transfer of ownership.
She told the Bagisu that wherever their campaign has taken them; to Rwenzori, Ankole, Busoga and now Bugisu Ugandans have objected to the bill because the bill it is unjust and would lead to a deprivation of human rights.
The awareness campaign is intended to seek people’s views through a consultative dialogue.
Busiro East MP Medard Ssegona told the people to guard their land jealously and to oppose both the land and presidential age limit amendment bills.
“The land bill shows that the government is failing, passing the bill is like agitating for land grabbing, it’s a denial of people’s constitutional right of ownership of land,” he said.
Conservative Party leader Ken lukyamunzi also spoke about how the bill defiles Article 26 of Ugandan
Constitution and article 17 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.