M7, Lawyers lock horns over new land evictions orders
Lawyers say the directive by President Museveni on land evictions turns security agencies into courts
The Uganda Law Society and other legal scholars have criticized President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni for issuing a directive that empowers the security organs to resolve disputes on land matters.
The directive came through President Museveni’s Twitter account and says: “I have issued a directive through the Office of the Prime Minister regarding illegal evictions. These evictions are permitted by corrupt officials in the district. Using the powers given to the President by Articles 98(1) and 99(1) of the Constitution, I direct as follows:
“No eviction should be allowed to take place in a district without (1) the District Security Committee, chaired by the RDCs, meeting, looking, and consulting directly the Minister of Lands.
“If this is not done and evictions take place, I will hold all the Members of the District Security Committee, except the UPDF representative because he/she may not know the substance of the issues involved, responsible and I will take action against all of them.
“Secondly,” Museveni said: “I request His Lordship the Chief Justice to prevail on his Magistrates and Judges from violating the Constitution by illegally evicting our people in collusion with land grabbers.
I further direct the Minister of Lands to inform the Attorney General about such abuses by the judicial officers, so that legal action can be taken on them.
In response to the President’s directive, Uganda Law Society (ULS) led by its President Phiona Wall Nabasa says the existing law is sufficient to safeguard the rights of all parties that may be involved in land-related disputes.
A statement issued by ULS says: “The Uganda Law Society has noted with concern the directive issued by His Excellency the President of the republic of Uganda banning all land evictions in the country without the consent of the respective district security committees.
Nabasa added: “The Society is aware that the land tenure system is rife with a number of illegal land evictions and the Resident District Commissioner (RDCs) have played a role in mediating and resolving some of these disputes. However, the judiciary is vested with the mandate to resolve disputes and issue evictions notices after taking into account the evidence presented before the courts of law.
Nabasa emphasized that the directive to obtain consent from District Security Committee (DSC) for an eviction when a court order has been issued, heavily undermines the independence and the effectiveness of the judiciary. This practice will amount to vesting the right to hear, resolve and execute disputes in the hands of the security organs which usurps the power of the judiciary.
She adds that the disputes between land owners and tenants should be heard before a court of competent jurisdiction.
“The right of each party must be balanced at all times against the compelling interests of the state to enforce law and order so as to restore confidence in the public justice system.”
Daniel Walyemera Musumba, a law lecturer at Cavendish University also argued that the directive is a symbol of state of anarchy because it fails to respect the cardinal principle of separation of powers between the judiciary and the executive.