A cold war is raging, pitting two principals in the country i.e President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni Tibuhaburwa against the Kabaka of Buganda Ronald Muwenda Mutebi II.
Museveni waved off the cold war during this year’s heroes day celebrations, when he furiously dubbed the Mailo land tenure system an evil.
Pissed by the widespread land evictions in Buganda which he blamed on landlords, Museveni weighed in with the threat to ban the land tenure system in question.
An angry Kabaka Mutebi responded in similar currency during a function to mark his coronation held at his palace in Nkoni, Masaka district.
Mutebi referencing the key role he and his subjects played during Museveni’s bush war and the fact that the winner pledged to return the Mailo land tenure system in Buganda, stated he and his subjects didn’t fight to be sabotaged by the President.
Mutebi explained how land grabbers armed with guns supposed to be regulated by government are the ones who evict people from their Bibanja across Buganda because no one can touch them including the police and courts of law.
Mutebi didn’t stop at the ban, but went ahead and expressed outrage at the fact that more than a decade after the war ended, the president is still holding onto things he pledged to return to Buganda such as Federo and the properties former president Dr. Apollo Milton Obote grabbed from the kingdom in the aftermath of the 1966 crisis that led to the abolition of kingdoms.
Following Kabaka’s pointed tirade and the cloud of scare it left hanging in the air, Musevenisummoned Mutebi for an urgent make-up meeting.
The meeting resolved to shelve the live-wire ban and thus the national assembly put off tackling the blueprint up to date.
In spite of the fact that Museveni stayed the ban, he went ahead and appointed a sworn critic of the land tenure system he wants banned to lead the campaign of banning it! This conveys the clearest signal that he has never abandoned the war, but is simply on retreat to possibly recharge as he plans better before he can launch a comeback.
The principal soldier Museveni appointed is none other Sam Mayanja his longtime lawyerwho has defended his Presidential victories against annulment on many occasions.
While the ban is in the fridge possibly to let it cool down before it can be re-launched, Mayanja, on the other hand, has been all over the place writing in newspapers, social media and appearing on radios and television stations throwing missiles against the Mailo land tenure system.
In what possibly indicates that Mayanja’s crusade isn’t restricted to Mailo land alone but is a hate campaign too, Museveni’s Minister recently ran an advert disparaging Buganda kingdom’s much cherished KasubiTombs – the Kingdom’s sacred burial place that is also categorized as a UNESCO world heritage site as a cheap collection of inferior hats!
A self-proclaimed Born Again Christian, Mayanja didn’t stop at that, but in a direct attack on the person of the Kabaka himself, Mayanja wondered how the king can go at night at an inferior place and engage in rituals ‘disparaging’ of himself and God and even allow what happened to be aired on radio and TV.
Kabaka Mutebi had been to the heritage site to perform obligatory cultural rituals a precursor to roofing the cultural grass-thatched hats housing the tombs of so far four kings and several royals.
As Mayanja is busy engaging in the disparaging campaign against the Kabaka, the Mailo land and the kingdoms at large, his master is conspicuously silent, leaving the impression that the president is not only enjoying whatever the servant spews out, but he supports the same too.
The Kabaka and his subjects have, on the other hand, tried to keep their heads in the fridge possibly in respect of what the president and the king agreed on during the make-up meeting held last August at state lodge in Nakasero.
Given the long preamble we have deliberate outlined, one could ask what is going on? To answer this question, one has to reflect on the history and the few things below for hints.
Promulgating the 1995 Uganda Constitution, President Museveni welcomed the new supreme law of the land but with two fundamental reservations.
The president pointed out that whereas the new Constitution was generally fine, he didn’t like the way the constituent assembly delegates had handled the issue of land and that of the army.
In case of the army, Museveni was emphatic. He didn’t want the name of ‘his’ army to be altered from the National Resistance Army to Uganda People’s Defense Forces (UPDF).
Museveni has insisted that he built the current army, debatably to be one of the finest on the African continent, from a rug-tug rebel out fit. He started knitting together the UPDF as we know it today right from the 1960s.
For the uninitiated, UPDF morphed from the national resistance army via which Museveni fought an unprecedented five year guerrilla war in Luweero that catapulted him into power in 1986.
Museveni accordingly felt by renaming his army given the many years and rigors he went through to put it together and without giving his views enough thought, the constituent assembly delegates undercut him.
This is perhaps why the commander-in-chief, Gen. Museveni being a rebel to the boot, continues up to this date to give army numbers to ‘his’ soldiers using the resistance army initials as opposed to the people’s army initials!
The military affairs aside, the gist of this piece is on the mailo land system.
As per the President’s reservations in the case of land, we now know how the President wanted the framers of the 1995 Uganda Constitution to make it easy for government to seize privately owned land using public interest as a justification for the move.
But the framers of the 1995 Constitution alert to the fact that a weaker land law can be easily exploited by national leaders to grab private land under the pretext of national good, trounced Museveni’s wish.
Even more, the framers of the 1995 Uganda Constitution made it a lot more painful for the central government to seize private land since to do so requires the administration not only to first pay timely compensation, but that compensation must also be adequate and commensurate to the land being seized.
To make matters worse for the central government, Mailo land comes complete with perpetual ownership. This fact makes it difficult for the central government to casually seize Mailo land just as it does when it comes to public land where it simply waits for the lease to expire and not renew it or cuts the lease short and then pays compensation.
This is why, framers of the constitution still alive tell us, the President perhaps wanted all land to be public land, but feared that it would make him look like former President Idi Amin or annoy, in case of Buganda, the Kabaka and his subjects, who had supported his war on condition he would return Mailo land on taking power.
It’s important also to point out the fact that the central government isn’t keen on banning communally owned land for the simple reason that it isn’t Titled and so not properly demarcated let alone documented, making it is easy to grab or seize if need be.
This can be achieved by simply compromising a few of the beneficiaries as it happened in Amuru and Atiak where land was removed from the vulnerable beneficiaries and turned over to a sugarcane investor.
The land grabber can as well sit in Kampala or any land registry elsewhere and create Titles over the communally owned land as the family of a senior police officer did in Lango and just like a number of powerful people are doing right now or did after grabbing land in the northern part of the country under the cover of the insurgency when the beneficiaries were being caged in the internally displaced camps in the name of shielding them from rebels.
Away from that and thanks to a renowned senior lawyer, Peter Mulira whose family owns hundreds of hectares of land in Kyaggwe- Mukono being descendants of Ham Mulira, the former powerful Ssekiboobo (Kabaka’s Principal chief in charge of Kyaggwe), we now possibly know how crafty people inside government and outside it have for a long time been creating freehold titles and interposing them upon the Mailo land Titles!
Mulira referencing her sister who died of Covid-19 in July and left 26 acres of land in Mukono, reveals how they were shocked upon embarking on the process of transferring the land into the names of the administrators of the estate of the deceased only to discover that wrong people had already created and registered the false freehold Title upon the departed’s Mailo land title.
Mulira says upon altering the land to freehold, the dubious people went ahead and started marketing it online evidently to skirt detection for purposes of selling it off.
The lawyer and his relatives are currently struggling to reclaim the land left by her sister and which the wrong characters grabbed.
Speaking as a practicing lawyer as well as a big landlord, Mulira submits that the people hankering to ban Mailo land are doing so simply because they want to validate the fake freehold titles which they have been creating and interposing over Mailo land.
He validates the submission above by revealing how the financial institutions where the forgers have been pledging the forged freehold titles in pursuit of loans have since rejected them and the documents are now useless hence prompting the powerful owners to wage a campaign of banning Mailo land.
Apart from creating freehold titles upon Mailo land titles, the land grabbers also use the land office to create multiple titles on one piece of mailo land, and just like that, the land grabbers illegally turn into owners of land they factually don’t own!
Freehold Titles earned popularity upon the advent of the current regime.
Legal practitioners and surveyors believe the freehold land tenure system was created with an eye on the so called 9000 square mile crown land that the colonial administration returned to Buganda to be distributed to the poor landless people in Buganda. The Mayiro Akenda land and public land including forests, swamps and generally whatever kind of land be it Mailo land has since become the target of land grabbers.
Lands deputy minister Mayanja while justifying the closure of the Wakiso land offices recently revealed how staffers there issued and were continuing to issue free hold titles in public forests, wetlands and road reserves to speculators who in turn blackmailed the government to compensate them or have since received hefty compensation from the government for land mapped out for the construction of the Entebbe Express highway and northern bypass using those titles.
Perhaps to render credence to the school of school of thought that the freehold land tenure system targets Mayiro Akenda, land law practitioners and surveyors reveal how the powerful people in government have since grabbed hundreds of hectares out of this particular land by simply creating freehold Titles on them.
This kind of land Bonanza has been rendered possible by the fact that the White rulers left this land in hands of the central government to keep for the future beneficiaries.
The current government placed this land in the hands of the district land boards which the powerful people in government and outside it can easily compromise or even intimidate into creating freehold Titles on them as they have been doing and keep doing.
Butambala county MP Muhamad Muwanga Kivumbi is one of the MPs who have been keenly investigating this matter illuminates how the move to ban Mailo land is diversionary.
“We have been asking government to point us where Mayiro Akenda is located in vain and now they are diverting us by threatening to ban Mailo land,”Kivumbi submits.
He vows that much as government is making the threats of banning mailo land, him and his like-minded leaders won’t give up asking government to account for Mailo Akenda.
“Let them table the bill banning Mailo land, we shall demand to include that asking government to account for MayiroAkenda,” the Buganda parliamentary caucus boss threatens.
Said and done what can be done to end land evictions?
Ugandans owning mailo land generally including the Kabaka of Buganda argue that they not opposed to government’s move to use it for development and public works so long as the administration either leases it or pays prompt and adequate compensation as provided for in the Uganda Constitution.
The Katikkiro of Buganda, Charles Peter Mayiga appeals to the president to effectively regulate guns which are used by land grabbers in the course of evicting people and also punish those arrested and those who issue them with guns.
He wants government to facilitate courts so that they can quickly and efficiently resolve land disputes and punish corrupt judicial officials who issue unmerited evictions and judgements in land disputes after taking bribes.
Since police is pointed out as one of the leading corrupt government institutions, Mayiga proposes the authorities must weed out corruption from the forces by dismissing those caught in the act as well as facilitating investigators in land disputes to do a thorough job.
Because land grabbing is perfected in the land registries, Mayiga proposes government must clean up the offices and facilitate the staff in order to do a good job.
He ends up by appealing to bibanja holders in Buganda to quickly register their bibanja and get land Titles by making use of the Buganda land Board initiative of kyapa mu ngalo because Titled land is not easy to grab.
Those who can’t afford paying for Titles, Mayiga educates, can as well continue paying busuulu (user fees) to their landlords as per the law thereby avoiding being evicted.
Crucially, the time is now for the central government to use funds budgeted for buying land for bibanja holders and then issue land Titles to them.
Doing so will be a win-win situation for both the Titled land owners and bibanja holders since none of the two will feel cheated in the process.
The landlord will walk away with the cash paid for his land and the kibanja holder , on the other hand, will leave with the Title in his bag hence giving him a peace of mind.
The central government will be the biggest winner because it will smile away with good will from both the landlord and the Kibanja holder and given that harmony will reign ultimately.