As the Kabaka of Buganda Ronald Muwenda Mutebi II marks
his 28th coronation anniversary this Saturday, his kingdom is yet again
bracing itself for another showdown with President Yoweri Museveni’s government. Like it has been in most of the previous confrontations, land is at the centre
of the simmering clash.
For about two years now, President Museveni has been
calling as evil the Mailo land tenure system which is very prevalent in
Buganda. The abolition of Mailo land was also one of the recommendations by the
Justice Catherine Bamugemereire led Commission of Inquiry on land.
meeting then Members of Parliament Elect subscribing to his National Resistance
Movement in April at Kyankwanzi, Museveni said one of the things he aims at achieving
during this term is to see an overhaul of the land laws. "Landowners should be entitled to
full ownership of their land like elsewhere in Uganda. In Ankole, nobody can
chase you away from your land. You even fear…”
Other than the Mailo land tenure system, Museveni also wants to see an amendment to article 26
of the constitution that prohibits the compulsory acquisition of property
before prompt payment of fair and adequate compensation to its owners. The government
tried and failed to push through this amendment in the 10th parliament
as there was consensus among MPs that it was a bad proposal.
Museveni’s resolve to push through these amendments were
even made more clear in his choice of the ministers of Land. Judith Nabakooba
the senior minister has been praised variously by Museveni for fighting land
evictions in her district of Mityana where she once served until May as the
woman member of parliament. She also served as a senior police officer at the rank of Commissioner of Police, now serving the same commander in chief as when she was in uniform.
But Museveni’s intensions are more stark in the appointment
of Sam Mayanja as the Minister of State for Lands. Mayanja who is a senior partner
at Kampala Associated Advocates, probably caught the president’s eye through
his column in the government owned New Vision newspaper.
In several of his
writings, Mayanja has used language similar to that of the like President to
describe the Mailo land tenure system.
In one of those writings, Mayanja describes the 1900 Buganda
Agreement that distributed land in the kingdom as the darkest day in the history
of Uganda where the largest majority of the people became landless at the hands
of a tiny political elites.
“Out of a population of close to one million people, only 3,700
were allocated land and the rest remained landless'," writes Mayanja. "They held bibanja at the
mercy of both the newly created Mailo landed aristocratic owners, and the
Uganda Protectorate Government whose Crown land was really intended for
alienation to non-Ugandans. The eviction of muntu wa wansi (peasants) from his kibanja removes the only security he has
been holding on since 1900. The ownership of the kibanja had over the years
offered him the ultimate security.”
Mayanja adds that
therefore, when President Museveni proclaims that the time has come to
give ownership in perpetuity to peasants on their bibanja tenure, he has
actually given to the people of Uganda their core security in the process securing
their future in perpetuity like he promised in the 2021 manifesto.
In another article published on Wednesday this week, Mayanja
says mailo landlords are selling off land like any other commodity without any
social or ideological considerations.
“They sell their mailo to buy vehicles, build houses or to raise
air tickets to join the armies that sweep Japan, Europe, Canada and USA
(kyeyo). This sale bonanza has caused bibanja holders to be living in a
permanent state of trauma. They do not know when they will be sold off to a
ruthless landlord. They do not know if the in-coming landlord will compensate
them adequately for them to start a new life elsewhere…"
He goes on: The landlords are not
bothered what happens to whom they now call squatters (instead of bibanja holders),
once they are evicted…Land reform is accordingly imperative otherwise hell will
break loose and no one may be able to pick up the pieces.”
Mayanja doesnt seem to consider the Kabaka's recent moves to give titles to bibanja holders under what the Katikkiro Charles Peter Mayiga popularised as 'Kyapa mu Ngalo" scheme.
It’s such rhetoric that has got the
Kingdom to start warming up to a possible showdown.
Even when it lost previous battles
that led to the enactment of the 1998 and 2010 Land Acts, Kingdom officials say
land is such important a matter to allow laws targeting it go unchallenged.
kingdom has already constituted a Committee led by Oweek. David Mpanga, the
minister for Research and Special Duties that is tasked with countering
In an interview with Uganda Radio Network-URN, Mpanga wondered
why government which professes love for the landless doesn’t want to lead by
example and give land titles to people who are occupying its land.
“Of course there were occupants on government land; it
wasn’t empty prior to 1900, there were people there. There are people on government
land even right now. Why is it that when they are on private Mailo they are sanctified
as bibanja holders and I’m not saying
for a minute that they are bad, but when they are on government land they are
called encroachers and squatters and are evicted?” Mpanga said.
Mpanga’s comments are echoed by the spokesperson of the
Forum for Democratic Change who is also the MP for Kira municipality Ibrahim
Ssemujju Nganda who while announcing a committee that his party had constituted
to gather views on how to respond to the amendment if they are brought, said
President Museveni should be the last person to speak about land evictions.
//Cue in…Museveni should be
Cue out…struggle are saying,’’//
Ssemujju added that although as a party they abhor
land evictions which he said he normally perpetuated by people with state
protection, they think the best way out is not to by expropriating property
from its current owners as doing so would be recipe for more chaos.
//Cue in…so Mr Museveni
Cue out…that is evil,’’//
FDC’s committee that was given one month to gather views from all affected parties
like Buganda Kingdom and the Church among others is headed by the party’s
chairman Wasswa Biriggwa with party lawyer Isaac
Ssemakadde and deputy chairman, Mukalazi Kibuuka as other members.
Mpanga too identifies with what Ssemujju says about
the government actions in regards to land evictions vis a vis their rhetoric
because the two are at variance.
//Cue in… its very critical
Cue out…comes from 1900
On the impending showdown, Mpanga said as the kingdom
they would like to be in harmony with the Central government for as long as it
acts in ways that don’t seem to suggest that they are targeting them.
//Cue in…the Baganda have
Cue out…we come from,’’//
It’s not only FDC that has already indicated its
opposition to the impending amendments. Even Buganda Parliamentary Caucus that
is largely composed of the National Unity Platform members has indicated that
the amendments will not happen under their watch.
Unlike in the previous
amendments to land laws, this time the NRM doesn’t have popular support in the Buganda
region. Most of the party candidates were defeated by new comers largely owing
to the unending land wrangles.
It’s not yet known how President Museveni if at
all he brings the amendments, will pull them off with the hostility not only
among the Buganda politicians but also the population which he says the
amendments aim at helping.
on the Coronation
But as the debate rages on, for now Mpanga said all
their focus now is on the Kabaka’s 28th coronation anniversary. He
said the restoration of the kingdom after 27 years of its abolition is
testimony that every problem has a solution.