I would like to clarify a few points:
1. Though I mentioned on UAH forum that some UPDF guys had bought land and could even manage to evict bibanja holders using their muscle, I did NOT say this is a rampant phenomenon! I did NOT by any means imply that it is only the army guys benefiting from this land business. In fact only a few army guys have been involved in these land wrangles to my knowledge.
2. I also said cowardly landlords are selling their land which is practically useless to them because of the strange phenomenon of permanent dual ownership. The muscle men are not necessarily Army men. In Uganda, muscle comes in many different forms – money, political power, influence peddling, corruption, etc. As a matter of fact, many of the prominent cases of evictions of bibanja holders that have appeared in the papers have been carried out by businessmen (one of them a prominent female businesswoman!) It is completely misleading to assume that evictions are only carried by the army or NRM bigwigs! When it comes to all these deals, political inclinations are not a factor – it is just the level of the profit from the deal and the capacity to carry it out – and I assure you, anyone with enough money to splash around has the capacity.
3. This dual ownership of land in the recently passed land bill is not a recent reality – it has been here since 1900! The 1998 Land Act and other amendments have only entrenched it because – let us face it – many lives are affected by this problem. It cannot be wished away. The New Vision conducted a survey of the land ownership problem and published its findings. The findings show that most of the people (about 70%) in Buganda are bibanja holders! This basically means they are living on other people’s property! Is this believable? Yes! I will give you an example from Mbale – where I originate. Although there is NO dual ownership of land in most of Mbale, very few people have land titles. They own the land by customary tenure and can only lay claim using relatives and neighbors as witnesses. This basically means that if one was able to bribe all these relatives and neighbors, one could actually take over another person’s land. Why? There is no record of it anywhere. But why haven’t the Bagisu surveyed their land and got land titles to it? This is the same problem with many peasants in the villages of Buganda. They have been using their land holdings from time immemorial with just a cursory acknowledgment of the landlord. It is only now when land has become such a hot cake in central Uganda that bibanja holders, all of a sudden, are faced with the specter of eviction. It is only now that bibanja holders (those with means) are scrambling to regularize their occupancy by trying to acquire titles to their bibanja. Given that all the land in Buganda was parceled out to only 3,000 out of a million people (perhaps) in 1900, and many of these have not bothered to buy titles, it is conceivable that the majority of Baganda are still in that state as revealed by New Vision.
4. Willing buyer – willing seller, is it true? Yes! As it is now, the government cannot simply tell bibanja holders to vacate the land of land owners (given the history). The 1998 Land Act sought to make it difficult for landlords to evict bibanja holders but there were many loopholes in it that were used by the landlords to evict the bibanja holders. So for those landlords who do not have the “muscle”, the land titles are equal to almost ZERO value. Now, under such a circumstance, any price that a landlord gets for the land is a profit because in the Books of Accounts, such an Asset is valueless. So a landlord who manages to get even 0.5million per acre, makes a very big profit. That is economics. Although some banks have been accepting collateral of such land titles, many have been shying away from them. So it is a willing buyer, willing seller alright!
5. The land policy can never say that now foreigners can own land in Uganda. No! The land policy can only specify how land should be used by those who already own it. Ownership issues have already been dealt with in the constitution. Foreigners have the permission to LEASE (not own) land for commercial purposes. They do not need the land policy to get this green light. But the land policy for example can state:
a. that everyone in Uganda who possesses land, must develop it within a certain period of time, otherwise it can be forfeited or the government can force such a person to sell it the land. Large tracts of land in Buganda and the north are not developed for decades.
b. That towns and cities should as much as possible not be built over arable land but should be located in arid or rocky places.
c. That roads should as much as possible be constructed over land that cannot be used for agriculture. The same goes for infrastructure like schools, hospitals, offices, etc.
d. That all land that has no crops must have trees. It can make statements on forest reserves, game reserves and parks, wetlands, etc.
e. That henceforth, land must not be fragmented below one acre (this is a real problem in Mbale and Kigezi). Outlawing land fragmentation is very important. Although landlords claim bibanja holders fragment land, that is not fragmentation we are talking about.
6. Point (5) above means that there is no insider dealing by anybody and the UPDF in particular. There cannot be anything in the land policy that makes it imperative for someone to buy up large chunks of land now!
7. Yes, the Land Amendment Bill, makes the land assets more useless to the land owners by constraining their actions on the land! But that is precisely what it is intended to do. Is this a good thing? Economically and financially, NO. But socially and politically it is.
8. Can 20 people lay claim (100%) to the same kibanja? No. This is not possible because at any one time, there are only two people who own a particular kibanja – the title holder and the kibanja holder! Either the title moves to another entity or the kibanja holder bequeaths the kibanja to an heir or sells to another holder. Does the kibanja holder have 100% claim on the kibanja? Only when he/she regularly pays the nominal ground rent! When he defaults, the landlord has procedures to follow to evict him from the land.
9. As to whether the UPDF is worse than the previous armies or the NRMO is a den of thieves! Well that is political and you are entitled to your opinion. It is not the topic for today so I will skip.