UGANDA, Bukalasa | Real Muloodi News | Sam Mayanja, the Minister of State for Lands, has admonished District and City Land Boards for irregularly reallocating expired leases, hence unjustly depriving citizens of their land.
In his letter dated February 2, 2022 to the chairperson of the Uganda Land Commission (ULC) and all chairpersons of District and City Land Boards, Mayanja reiterates that Article 237 (3) of the 1995 Constitution recognises leasehold as a separate land tenure system, in addition to customary, freehold, and Mailo tenure systems.
Leasehold tenure is created either by contract or operation of law on specific terms and conditions under which a lessor (landlord) grants a lessee (tenant) exclusive possession of land for usually a defined period and usually in return for a premium and ground rent.
Mayanja adds that once a lease has been granted to a citizen, that lease becomes the property of that citizen as a tenancy and subject to the rights outlined in article 237 (5).
Further, Mayanja explains that the renewal and extension of leases on initial and full periods for all citizens shall be automatic, and non-citizens shall be able to renew.
He further adds that article 237 (5) allows any citizen of Uganda to convert his lease into a freehold land ownership.
Mayanja also took issue with ULC and district land boards purporting to automatically re-enter running leases on public land, which he says contravenes the guidelines on the administration of land under the Land Act, Cap 227. He pointed out the guidelines specifically state that the district land board shall not automatically re-enter a lessee’s land while exercising the duties of a lessor.
“Any purported automatic re-entry of a lease shall not be registered (noted on the titles register) nor will such a re-entry be recognised by the Ministry as affecting any existing rights of the owner of a lease. By copy hereof, the commissioner for land registration is at this moment notiﬁed,” warned Mayanja.
“Both the ULC and district land boards are mandated to hold in trust for the people of Uganda the reversionary interest on these leases. The ULC, the district and city land boards, must follow, especially guidelines 4.2 and 4.3,” he said.
Mayanja recommends that all criteria be followed fully while dealing with leases because property is a constitutional right to all citizens of Uganda. This right must be observed by Uganda Land Commission, District/City Land Board as statutory bodies authorised by the Constitution to grant leasehold tenancies to the citizens of Uganda.
He said that their investigations had revealed that specific land boards are also culpable of handing away communal land under the guise that it is reserve government territory, such as a wetland, and that the groups that live on it are ‘squatters.’
This has led to unfathomable hardship among ordinary Ugandans due to frequent evictions.
“Almost all government land is gone. When I was in Bukalasa, the district surveyor told me that there is no public land in the area any more. So, if the government wants to do a project in Nakasongola and Bulemezi (Nakaseke and Luwero), it will have to just buy land, yet the government had a lot of land there,” Mayanja said.
District Land Boards Defend Themselves
The majority of district land board executives refuted the charges raised against them.
“We are public land trustees. The reason it is called public land and why we give leases with conditions is because there is something called a covenant, which is a contract. It says ‘we are giving you this land on condition that you develop it’. Now, we ﬁrst give a developmental lease of ﬁve years and the purpose of that is to ensure that you do not put the land to waste or hoard it,” the chairperson of Kampala district land board, David Balondemu, said.
Balondemu stated that once some advancements on the land and work are underway, the lease gets extended.
“Now, for instances where someone gets a developmental lease of ﬁve years and keeps renewing it every other ﬁve years, honestly, city land is not for keeping, it is for developments. In such instances, we have no choice but to offer land to other people who have applied for it,” he added.
Balondemu added that they always put a human face on cases when someone has developed the land, and they are unable to renew leases by providing them with a fair hearing.
A Masaka district land board member, Peter Ssenkungu, disputed the corruption charges against the boards.
“Anybody acquainted with the mandate of what we do knows that we do not give out land because that is the mandate of the lands ofﬁce. They are the ones who identify land and make land titles,” he argued.
According to Ssenkungu, the government provides for the creation of land boards without providing any assistance.
“How can you expect them to be effective in carrying out their mandate? Even things like paper are not provided. Some of us do not have ofﬁce space. That is the problem,” he added.
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