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Lands Ministry Moots Plan to Popularize Proposed Land Amendment Law

Early this month, Lands Minister, Betty Amongi said that the proposed amendments were triggered by the bureaucracies involved in compensating project-affected persons, which tend to stall projects.
The Lands, Housing and Urban Development Ministry has teamed up with other government departments to develop convincing information to push Ugandans to appreciate the proposed law on land acquisition for infrastructural development. 

On June 22nd, Savino Katsigaire, the Lands Ministry, Permanent Secretary, sent out invitation letters to several officials from several key departments for a meeting on June 27th to brainstorm on the matter.

They included the Permanent Secretary Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development, the Executive Director of Kampala City Council Authority, Executive Director Uganda National Road Authority –UNRA, Executive Director Uganda Investment Authority and the Managing Directors of Uganda Electricity Generation, Transmission and Distribution Companies Limited, and the Rural Electrification Agency.

In the letter, Katsigaire notes that in a bid to propel the country to middle income status by 2020, government has embarked on development of various infrastructure projects that require acquisition of land for implementation. 

He however, notes that during a meeting with the president, Yoweri Museveni at State House Nakasero on June 21st, it was observed that a number of development projects are delayed for a long period because of contestation of the compensation awards by the Chief Government Valuer and the Project Affected Persons.

“As you are aware, cabinet has approved the amendments to article 26 of the constitution of Uganda as follows,” reads the letter.  Clause (3) where the parties are unable to agree on a fair and adequate compensation payable under clause (2), (b) (i), the government shall deposit in court or with any other competent authority the market value of the property as evaluated by the Government Chief Vauler and the government shall take possession of then property pending determination by the court or competent authority of the disputed amount of the compensation.

(4) For the avoidance of doubt, the owner of the property shall not stop government from taking possession of the property where government has deposited the evaluated compensation amount referred to clause (3) but shall have a right to claim the disputed compensation amount that may be determined by the court or any other competent authority.

“In order for these amendments to be appreciated by the citizens, there is need to prepare convincing Information, Education and Communication-IEC materials that will be used for dissemination,” he said. Adding that, “You are to come with any valuable information regarding the same but not limited to the following; Names of the projects that have suffered contestation of compensation awards, particulars of Project affected persons, the cost implications to government to date on the stated projects and Percentage of Project Affected persons contesting compensation awards approved.”

The proposed land amendment has already generated nationwide debate and jitters, with some critics, saying the law will fuel land grabbing and evictions in the country. Former Makerere University Don, Professor Dan Okello, says government already owns large chunks of land in forest reserves, national parks and swamps. "If the land owners refuse, government has nothing to do. But in areas where minerals are found, the land owners should be compensated - the owners of such land are entitled to royalties,” he said.

Okello argues that the big question that remains unanswered is whether government can balance both its interests as the custodian of the land and the people, the owners of the land. Felix Okot Ogong, the Dokolo South MP who also doubles as the Lango Parliamentary Group, asks Ugandans to reject the law, saying it is being brought with ill motives. Okot explains that government is still struggling compensate people whose land was taken over for various development projects.

He says the proposed law seeks to deny citizens their right to own land. Early this month, Lands Minister, Betty Amongi said that the proposed amendments were triggered by the bureaucracies involved in compensating project-affected persons, which tend to stall projects.

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