Opinion: Uganda, Remember Neglecting the Land Question Generally Leads to Revolutions

Nek2In Uganda everyone is attached to the land. With the current United Democratic Ugandans (UDU) civic education, land tenure and use have taken on new meaning as a means of livelihood, profitable investment, store of value and a source of prestige.

The British colonial administration decided that land belonged to the people of Uganda and passed a law severely restricting foreign ownership and utilization provided Uganda peasants produced industrial commodities and food stuffs needed in the United Kingdom.In areas as in Buganda where attempts were made to allocate more land for public purposes, peasant response was swift and in some cases with serious outcomes.

Before coming to power, the National Resistance Movement (NRM) which is the current regime, recognized the sensitivity of land tenure and use and promised that those who had been dispossessed would get their land back or compensated. However, once in power, the NRM position changed. Those with money and power acquired land at break neck speed especially in the Luwero Triangle where half of the population lost their lives during the five year guerrilla war and many of the survivors did not return.

By 1989 land grabbing had become so serious that a delegation complained to the president but nothing was done. Instead, the president announced regularly that Uganda had much unutilized arable land and water resources. He appealed to Ugandans to allow immigrants into the country to help in the development process. He also urged Ugandans to abandon rural life and settle in towns where development and employment prospects were better.

The 1995 constitution which allows Ugandans and increasingly non-Ugandans to settle and own land anywhere in the country has opened the gate for massive land grabbing and dispossession of powerless and voiceless Ugandans. What is even more disturbing is that foreigners especially from densely populated neighbors are grabbing Uganda land with tacit support of the NRM government. Organizations are being formed and facilitated financially with the principal purpose of purchasing land on the false notion of “willing seller and willing buyer”. In practice, however, much of land acquisition is being realized at gun point or manipulation under cover of darkness.

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The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of Africa Speaks 4 Africa nor its editorial policy.

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