Ever since this land amendment bill particularly article 26 of the 1995 constitution was tabled before the floor of parliament for debate, it has attracted endless debates on both social media and in the public domain as some are opposing it saying itâ€™s a ploy hatched by the president and his NRM government to grab peopleâ€™s precious land.
It should be noted that the bill which was tabled before Parliament is seeking to amend the constitution to enable the central government or local government to compulsorily acquire land prior to payment of compensation which most learned people have termed as unconstitutional.
Article 26 of the Constitution already permits the government to acquire land for public use or in the interests of defense, public safety, public order, public morality or public health on condition that prompt payment of fair and adequate compensation prior to acquisition of the property and a right of access to court of law by the affected persons is made.
In the proposal to add sub-article (c) will offend what lawyers know as the ejusdem generis (of the same category) rule and will be inadmissible in a court of law. Â This has raised fears among the members of the public especially those who entirely depend on land as a source income. Members of parliament especially from the opposition that is Democratic Party, FDC and UPC have launched various campaigns across the country dubbed â€œKâ€™ogikwatakoâ€ protesting against the governmentâ€™s ploy to grab peopleâ€™s land.
The purpose of the Bill is itself unclear since the present laws allow the government to do exactly what the Bill seeks to achieve. Section 5(b) of the Land Acquisition Act provides, â€œWhere person awarded compensation under this section refuses to accept payment, the High Court on the application of the Attorney General, may order for payment to be made into court on such conditions as it thinks appropriate.â€
The Bill seeks to remove the necessity for the Attorney General to make an application to court and to oust the courtâ€™s jurisdiction to make orders in the matter which will raise issues of arbitrariness contrary to other provisions of the Constitution.
The government justifies the Bill on the ground that it will resolve the current problem of the delayed implementation of government infrastructure and investment projects arising out of the compulsory acquisition process.
However, this cannot be correct in light of section 7(2) of the Land Acquisition Act, which provides that â€œWhere the assessment officer takes possession of the land (a) the land shall immediately by operation of law vest in the Uganda Land Commission free from all encumbrances and (b) the estate and interest of every person having an interest in the land immediately before the land so vested shall be deemed to have been converted into a claim for compensation under this Act.â€
About two weeks back the president invited members of parliament from NRM to state house Entebbe to discuss the same, but according to the information that the biggest percentage of MPs rejected the proposal citing future calamities that might befall on to them. After a disagreement the president selected a committee and put his vice President Edward Kiwanuka Ssekandi as the chairman of the committee in which he instructed the same to go and make inquiries and makes his a report in two weeks. This has been termed as an illegal committee which most of the MPs say that it was formed illegally and that whatever report they make cannot be discussed before parliament. They argued that there is already a legal and parliamentary affairs committee which is entirely scrutinizing the same bill, now M7 forms another contrary committee
After this Museveni thought his wise Â ploy might be Â have failed, barely these days would erupt he has launched campaigns in western Uganda, booked top most media houses which have bigger audiences to sensitize the public about the proposed bill himself. Apparently Museveni is moving with a team of MPs led by ICT Minister Frank Tumwebaze, Mwesigwa Rukutana, Dr. Chris Baryomunsi, David Bahaati, among others.
These launched the campaigns in Kabale on Monday where they appeared on Voice of Kigezi, on Tuesday he appeared on Radio west and TV west, on Wednesday, he appeared on voice of Toro in Fort portal.
However his debates on radios have raised various questions in the publicâ€™s minds saying that these show seem to be stage managed since the guests are the ones directing how the program to be run.
â€œI did not pick anything from Museveni while appearing on Radio west, because they did not engage the public so that they can ask the president, secondly most of the phone calls were all coming from NRM leaders from various levels, so we did not feel convinced that we should give out our land to government|â€ One of the residents who preferred his names to be withheld told us.
Unanswered questions Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â
To begin with, this is first of its kind for President Museveni Â to see him making upcountry sensitization and making himself relevant to the public by appearing on Tvs and radios to talk about most controversial issues, the question is what are his interests in the land bill?
Secondly why didnâ€™t he wait for his â€œSekandi Committeeâ€ to make him a report on the findings from the public on the matter?, Thirdly is the land amendment bill one of Ugandaâ€™s priority as far as service delivery is concerned?,Â could there be a hidden motive behind this?
Thirdly, Bamugemereiere Commission is already digging deeper into land matters in the country and unearthing a lot of dirt in the Ministry of Lands, Uganda Land Commission and District land boards. So far all indicators show that itâ€™s the Museveniâ€™s government officials grabbing peopleâ€™s land directly and indirectly, Ministers give away government land at will and walk scot free. The question is why President so impatient that he cannot wait for the commission he established himself to compile a report that may guide him as he engages the public on the bill. This makes all his motives suspicious.
This is just the beginning of another movie and the film start as usual is President Museveni.