The epidemic of politically motivated land grabbing in Uganda
Grabbing of land owned by government in trust of the people of Uganda has become an epidemic in Uganda. The Museveni regime in Uganda has over the past 37 years been characterized by runaway corruption, politically motivated land grabbing, political patronage, and cronyism.
Specifically, land grabbing has become an epidemic of sorts. Since 2010, land grabbing has been escalating across the country. The districts that have had a fair share of land grabbing include Hoima, Bulisa, Amuru, Nwoya, Kiryandongo and Mubende among others.
The act of grabbing public land is contrary to the laws of Uganda, therefore it is criminal and yet the grabbers enjoy a degree of impunity that is beyond comprehension. It thus points to one conclusion – that they are well connected to the regime.
This week, the state-owned daily newspaper, The New Vision, reported that government has lost 5 ranches in Sembabule district namely Ranch Numbers: .22, 23, 24, 29 and 32. The newspaper report that the state minister for lands, Dr. Sam Mayanja has learned that the ranches have been grabbed by individuals who according to him are connected to influential politicians. Perhaps also much more powerful than himself.
The topography of the land in Sembabule district is such that the biggest chunk of it (75%) is covered by shrubs and grass hence suitable for cattle rearing while only 25% of the land is suitable for crop agriculture. Thus, the grabbers of these ranches are mostly likely to have been motivated by cattle rearing. Uganda’s current President, Yoweri Museveni comes from cattle rearing community in Ankole. Sembabule district lies at the center of the Ankole-Masaka cattle corridor.
By the time of Gen. Museveni’s capture of power in 1986, all the 34 original districts had public land gazetted for demonstration farms known as District Farm Institutes (DFI). To date, the DFI’s are no more and their land has fallen prey to the ferocious land grabbers.
The nature and type of land tenure system in place, and Uganda has a variety of them, will have a significant influence on land grabbing in the country. Unfortunately, majority of the citizens are unaware of how the land tenure systems operate and it is this ignorance that land grabbers exploit and evict thousands of families with untold impunity.
On 8th December 2016, President Museveni established the Commission of Inquiry into Land Matters, chaired by Justice Catherine Bamugemereire with instructions to inquire into the effectiveness of law, policies and processes of land acquisition, land administration, land management and land registration in Uganda.
Between 2017 and 2019, the Commission received 8,528 complaints from 123 of the country’s 135 districts. It exposed numerous cases on land grabbing by senior officials in the government, in the army and cronies of the regime. Some of the land grabbing cases were reportedly done at gunpoint.
The level of impunity demonstrated in Sembabule district with individuals criminally privatizing public land in service of private/personal interests, is an inditement on the President of Uganda to demonstrate by word and deed, that such actions have no place in the modern world. This must be put to a stop.