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Civil Society Actors Caution Against State-led Reforms on Mailo Land

The proposal comes at the height of great suspicion by the Buganda Kingdom over a proposal by the central government to cause reforms in the land administration regimes, including but not limited to abolition of Mailo land tenure system, which is most prevalent in Buganda.
09 Aug 2021 19:38
Agnes Kirabo, the executive director Food Rights Alliance

Audio 4

Civil society activists have cautioned the government against directly instigating reforms on the mailo land tenure system as a solution to rampant evictions in the country.

The proposal comes at the height of great suspicion by the Buganda Kingdom over a proposal by the central government to cause reforms in the land administration regimes, including but not limited to abolition of Mailo land tenure system, which is most prevalent in Buganda.

Speaking during a meeting organized by Food Rights Alliance-FRA; on the evolution of Mailo Tenure System in Uganda, the activists argued that state-led reforms will not resolve underlying challenges in the land administration, due to the apparent bias with which sections of people perceive government initiatives.

James Nkuubi, a civil society activist and advocate says its high time the government studied and adopted some of the existing land management models that have governed harmonious relationships between landowners and tenants in different settings. He is afraid that the reforms will drag the country into bitter clashes, as the current mailo landowners may perceive them as unfair plots intended to deposes them of their hard-earned land.

He indicates that with all the challenges that exist, landowners and tenants have developed their own ways of living in harmony, citing the Buganda Kingdom model where tenants obtain leases on the institution’s land, suggesting that it be expanded to other private mailo where people are evicted.

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Nkuubi says that instead of presenting fresh reforms that have already caused public discomfort, the government can explore and adopt a model of land sharing between landowners and tenants, as a viable approach to defusing the stalemate over ownership and land utilization.

Under this model; the occupant formally agrees to revert part of the land to the landlord, who eventually gives perpetual rights of ownership to the latter in form a title for the remaining piece of land. Nkuubi, prefers that government formalizes and guides on proper execution of the model as another appropriate response before introducing fresh reforms that may turn out to be unpopular.

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Eddie Nsamba Gayiiya, a Land Policy Consultant and Natural Resources Tenure Specialist at the African Land Advisory Group, argues that the ongoing debate about the Mailo land tenure system is filled with myths that can hardly be cleared by state-inspired reforms. According to him, the proposal to reform are being received with hostilities because they are largely based on speculation and propaganda

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As the available options, Gayiira advises the government to properly utilize the current Land Fund as well as empower local council Land Tribunals, to solve disputes on a case by case basis; other than mooting for generalized reforms.

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Christine Kaaya, the Woman Member of Parliament for Kiboga, one of the areas suffering serious disputes and evictions indicates that their problems are largely associated with deliberate land grabbing and issuance of overlapping titles, inconsistencies that can be addressed through strengthening the existing management structures within government.

Meanwhile, Agnes Kirabo, the Executive Director of Food Rights Alliance says they are now working on alternative views, they want to present to relevant committees of parliament once the debate on reforms is officially opened up.