Opposition leader Dr Kizza Besigye has poured scorn on the work of the Commission of Inquiry into land matters, saying it is a public relations exercise not meant to resolve land conflicts in the country.
Appearing on the NBS TV breakfast show on Thursday morning, Dr Besigye said the land problems such as grabbing and forgery of land titles will never end as long as power remains in the hands of a few.
“Land grabbing is going to remain a major problem and we as a country need to push back and fight for it, it’s not going to be solved by the Bamugemereire committee because that is largely a public relations exercise,” Dr Besigye said.
“As long as control of our power remains in a few hands, then they’ll continue disregarding the right of other including the land rights. Most of the land grabbing is happening within the customary land tenure,” he added.
Dr Besigye’s remarks come a day after the Katikkiro of Buganda Kingdom, Mr Charles Peter Mayiga, blamed the rampant land conflicts in the country on weaknesses of the responsible government agencies and not the kingdom’s mailo land tenure system.
Appearing before the Commission of Inquiry into land matters in Kampala on Wednesday, the Katikkiro 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.
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.
Led by Justice Catherine Bamugemereire, the seven-member Commission was set up in 2016 to look into the effectiveness of the law and processes of land acquisition, administration, management and registration in Uganda following increasing land conflicts. They effectively began work on May 3, 2017.
However, the manner in which the Commission spends money has raised eyebrows among officials from the Ministry of Finance, including the Permanent Secretary, Mr Keith Muhakanizi.
The commission is in spotlight over failure to account for Shs13 billion it received from the Ministry of Finance amid accusations of extravagant expenditure.
About three weeks ago, sources said Mr Muhakanizi, who is also the Secretary to the Treasury, blocked a request from the Commission for more Shs7 billion, until they provide accountability. However, President Museveni has since intervened and given them the money and extended their tenure.
Several government officials who have appeared and been harangued before the commission are also quietly looking at a possibility of challenging its Final Report, basing on its tendency to overstep their mandate and failure to follow rules of natural justice.
“She is going beyond her mandate by issuing orders outside terms of reference. She illegally detains people during hearings and will not allow them to go for lunches,” an exasperated government official told PML Daily last week.
The official is one of several that is on the verge of losing their positions based on the recommendations of Justice Bamugemereire’s Interim Report, still kept a secret.
Justice Bamugemereire handed over her Interim Report to President Museveni on February 16, 2018.