UGANDA, Kololo | Real Muloodi News | During the 32nd Heroes’ Day anniversary speech at Kololo Independence Grounds, President Yoweri Museveni explained the failure and inefficiency of the Mailo land tenure system in Uganda. He claimed that this century-old system in the Buganda kingdom is “a very bad system,” and should be dismantled, according to Daily Monitor.
What is the Mailo Land Tenure System?
Uganda’s land tenure system is complicated. The 1995 Constitution formally recognized four tenure systems: freehold, Mailo, leasehold, and customary tenure. Mailo land tenure system is prevalent in the central and western areas. Mailo tenure covers around 10% of Uganda’s land area (on the surface) and maybe more.
The Mailo System arose in the early 1900s because of the Buganda Agreement, in which the British surrendered land to the Buganda Kingdom. The monarch and his nobility were given vast blocks of land held by smallholders, referred to as Mailo land due to the square mile measurement in which they were surveyed.
According to a World Bank report, Mailo tenancy was still controlled by Buganda law and tradition, including being passed down solely to male successors. The Mailo system established private property for customary authority while ignoring the rights of the inhabitants (tenants or kibanjas holders) who cultivated the land actively.
As a result, the agreement was revised in 1928, establishing busuulu (ground rent) and envujju (tribute) regulations, which intended to acknowledge and reinforce occupants’ rights by limiting the amount of rent paid and protecting tenants against eviction without compensation.
Following Amin Dada’s coup d’état, the Land Reform Decree (1975) declared all land public. The Mailo system disappeared on paper, and tenants became tolerated occupants with no tenure/occupancy rights, since there was no mention of them in the law.
In 1986, after President Museveni’s government assumed power, a reform of the country’s land laws was engaged. The result was the re-institution of the Mailo system in 1995, at the insistence of the Buganda Kingdom.
Why the Mailo Land Tenure System is termed as “Bad”
However, Buganda’s landowners are subject to autonomous kingdom laws, customs, conventions, and values under the Mailo System. Furthermore, it has inconsistencies in property ownership taxes costs.
No Certificates of Occupancy (CoOs) with payments of UGX 5,000 have been granted yet to the tenants, presumably because a CoO becomes a documented burden on the landlord’s Mailo title.
The overlapping of ownership and use rights on Mailo property and the inability to explain land rights have been recognized as a significant obstacle to investment, rural development, and increased productivity in central and western Uganda.
Issues with the Mailo Land Tenure System
During his address, President Museveni voiced his disapproval of this system. He expressed that this system is not fair and bad for people and that this should not be happening in any part of Uganda. He said:
“Land owners should be entitled to full ownership of their land like elsewhere in Uganda. In Ankole, nobody can chase you away from your land. You [live in] fear.”
The President further shed light on how this system illegally displaces people from their land using the example of veteran, Livingston Ssenabulya.
The President explained: “I was surprised to hear that veteran Livingston Ssenabulya who gave us a forest during the  liberation war had been chased from his land. The person who was chasing them, Namwandu Mulyante, was our person.”
He said this while highlighting how the system deprives occupants of their rights.
The Way Forward
The President explained that he handpicked members of the new cabinet, stressing that his new government has people-oriented leaders.
Talking about his appointments, the President claimed: “Some of these politicians are neither with God nor with Satan, but Judith Nabakoba was very strong on the side of the people in these land things. That’s why I appointed her [Minister of Lands, Housing and Urban Development].”
The President highlighted a report by Justice Catherine Bamugemereire and said: “In Buganda, they have so many actors with each one saying this and that and it’s all against a small person. We shall see what to propose including absentee landlords.”
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