By Mourice Muhoozi
Land is the most precious resource in Uganda, most especially among the agrarian communities as it is the mother of all factors of production. This is because it is the basis for agriculture from which most people are entirely depending with over 82% of the Ugandan work force employed in the agricultural sector.
However, the struggle for ownership and control over this valuable resource has climaxed into tensions, bloodshed and death among the populace.
It is so unbecoming and regrettable that the government of Uganda takes a lion’s share in the blame for these conflicts which have claimed several lives and led to wanton destruction of property.
There has been several unlawful evictions, torture, meted against the locals over their land. The unlawful evictions masterminded by Ambrose Wekesa Murunga in Gayaza village, Luweero district contravened section 32(a)(1) of the Land Amendment Act of 2010 which stipulates that a lawful occupant of a registered land is supposed to be evicted only if the court orders it.
All these injustices that locals are facing regarding their land show government’s weakness because its the state’s obligation to ensure security and tranquility in the country by providing security to people and their property.
The inherent failure by the government to rectify weaknesses with in the police force has escalated land wrangles in Uganda. This government institution is marred by corruption, bribery and inadequate investigatigations into land matters by police officers.
On several occasions, having been bribed, some police officers connive with affluent individuals to grab land from the locals. A case in point were the four police officers who were suspended by the IGP general Kale Kayihura on 26th July 2017, after being believed to have links with rich land grabbers.
Besides, the government’s failure to take immediate steps to resolve land conflicts has also led to their escalation. On several ocassions, the locals have sought for the state intervention to have these issues settled once and for all but their calls have fallen on deaf ears of the concerned entities.
For example on 17th July 2017, the locals in Nakasozi, Mubende district lynched a Chinese farm manager Stephen Tumwine, having suspected him of being behind their crops’ destruction after their efforts for government intervention became futile.
Nevertheless, the inefficient funding of the land tribunals and probe committees by the government also accounts for the escalations of the wrangles. The government is supposed to efficiently facilitate the expenses of land committees and tribunals seeking clarifications and resolving land disputes. This has however not been well effected as the ministry of finance has on several occasions frustrated the budgets of these committees under mysterious circumstances.
This inherent weakness has been exploited by selfish individuals to grab land from the locals. For instance the probe committee into the land matters which was instituted by president Museveni in December 2016 has been unable to effectively carry out its activities due to inadequate funding.
In July2017, the landsministry accepted to cut their budget and asked the finance ministry to release Shs 2.5 billion to the Bamugemereire committee; the treasury released only Shs 1.3 billion in May and withheld Shs 1.2 billion for no clear reasons.
This halted the operation of the committee for two weeks hence the progress which would have been reached at in resolving land disputes was brought to a stalemate.
Therefore, concerned entities which among others include the judiciary and the police force should rise up in a higher gear and resolve these land conflicts, once and for all. This can be achieved through transparency in the court proceedings and police operations regarding land issues, while prioritizing interests of a common man over those of affluent land grabbers so as to ensure maximum harmony and tranquility in the Ugandan community and respect for the rule of law.
The writer Mourice Muhoozi is a second year student of Journalism and Communication at Makerere University.