KAMPALA-UGANDA/NEWSDAY: Three National Resistance Movement-NRM veterans have warned the government it’s proposal to alter the mailo land tenure system risks plunging the country into chaos if not handled properly.
Retired Major Abdul Nadduli, Maj Kakooza Mutale have both said government is misguided to believe that the conflicts over land especially in Buganda are driven by the mailo land tenure system. On the other hand, retired Major Gertrude Nanyunja Njuba believes problems over land go beyond the mailo land tenure system.
President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni has on several occasions including last week when he was meeting the top leadership of the government-owned newspaper, the New Vision, said mailo land is the root cause of all evictions in Buganda and therefore, there is a need to amend the law to rectify this. Although concrete proposals through a bill are yet to be presented before parliament, adrenaline levels have already started rising especially in Buganda where the system is most prevalent.
The Buganda Kingdom, the biggest beneficiaries of the mailo land system has said it is ready to put up a spirited fight to ensure that government drops the proposals. Kabaka Ronald Muwenda Mutebi using his 28th coronation anniversary said whoever is targeting the mailo land tenure is after weakening his kingdom. The yet to be presented proposals have also received stiff resistance from both the Anglican and Catholic churches and the Muslim community, all big owners of mailo land.
Speaking to Uganda Radio Network, Nadduli, a former minister without portfolio and former vice-chairman of the NRM in charge of Buganda said Uganda risks integration if the government pushes on with the amendments. Nadduli said such amendments don’t appreciate the history of Uganda.
Nadduli called upon parliament not to even attempt to discuss the matter of abolishing the mailo land tenure system because, doing so would be unravelling the foundation on which the country was built.
“Parliament shouldn’t attempt to bring back any matter that was discussed and solved before 1962. Those Ugandans you are talking about now, tell me one of them whose signature is on the 1900 Agreement. This was an agreement between the British and the Baganda and cannot be opened up by other Ugandans. Those ministers of land must know that when the people surrender their rights on land, it will be very easy for the government to take it away from them and that would be broad day robbery,” Nadduli said.
He added that most evictions in Buganda are perpetrated by people within the government and security forces regardless of the existing laws.
Maj Kakooza Mutale, a Museveni supporter infamously known for leading a paramilitary group that terrorized Ugandans during the 2001 presidential election, said Uganda risks disintegration if the government mishandles the issue of land. Mutale said abolishing the mailo land tenure system is akin to abolishing the 1900 Buganda Agreement.
“That’s not something you can do, if you believe that the land at Entebbe and Kampala was got as a result of the 1900 Agreement, then that’s what gives legitimacy to the government. Who sold the government of Uganda the land on which State House or Parliament or Mulago hospital or Entebbe Airport are seated? So, when you say you are abolishing mailo land, you are in essence abolishing yourself,” Mutale said.
During his meeting with New Vision, Museveni said he was the brain behind the return of mailo land in the 1995 Constitution. In 1975, the then-president Idi Amin Dada had abolished all other land tenure systems and vested the land in the hands of the government.
Museveni said if he was after dispossessing Buganda, then he would not have allowed the return of mailo land. However, Kakooza Mutale said it would be disingenuous for any single person to claim that they alone brought back the mailo land.
“Mailo wasn’t returned by one person, it was returned by all Ugandans in the constituent assembly because that is what they wanted,” Mutale said. He called upon all Members of Parliament from Buganda to come out and start opposing the proposal he said is not good for anybody.
Meanwhile, unlike the two NRM supporters, another former combatant, Njuba, who for over 10 years was in charge of the State House unit in charge of the land, said there is a problem on land that government must find a solution for.
Speaking to URN, Njuba said right now both the landlords and the tenants are suffering because of the double ownership of land.
Njuba said she is not happy with the direction the debate on land reforms is taking. She said it appears as if one morning there will be a proclamation that those with mailo land don’t have land anymore. She said the government she knows cannot take away people’s property without compensating them.
“My government has never cheated people, there will be compensation for those who will be affected by the law. But I think what they are talking about is streamlining and separating the ownership of land. If they finally bring the bill, it will be discussed by parliament. Eventually, as Ugandans, we shall come out with an answer but the separation of ownership must happen, if it doesn’t, we shall just postpone a problem without solving it,” Njuba said.
She however added that the problem on land in Buganda is not only caused by the mailo land system. She said even with freehold or leasehold tenure systems, both are bedeviled by similar challenges. She called upon the government to have a holistic approach to land reform that focuses on all aspects to come up with a lasting solution.
Although the proposals are yet to be made public, several government officials including President Museveni himself have been on record saying in the envisaged amendments, they intend to among others allow the tenants to pay busulu of dodging landlords at the sub-county headquarters.
The proposal to allow the government to possess people’s land before full compensation that was resisted in the previous parliament is also expected to be brought back in the imminent amendments.
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