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Land Disputes: Problems with Ownership and Rights

The Chapter focuses on the various land disputes either arising out of the type of land tenure or domestic relations down to the disputes that could arise from government actions

In our daily transactions with land, many disputes often arise as to: who owns the land; the rights one has concerning the land; the distinction between occupation and ownership of land; how one can protect his/her use of land; and many others. Today’s land problems in Uganda have been shaped by various aspects of history and vary depending on the different land tenure systems.

1

Problems under Customary land tenure

It is worth noting that under customary land tenure, land is not registered. Due to this, a number of problems arise as there is no conclusive evidence of ownership. These problems include the following;

  1. Land grabbing due to the fact that the customary land owner cannot easily prove that he/she actually owns the land.
  2. Difficulty in establishing whether one has any sort of interest over the land.
  3. Difficulty in establishing which interest takes precedence over the other. This is because unlike other tenures like freehold where the interests in land are registered at the registry and precedence depends on who registered first, this is not the case with customary tenure as land is not registered. It therefore becomes difficult to determine which interest comes before the other.
  4. High chances of encroachment since land is in many cases not titled and does not have express boundaries.
2

Problems under Leasehold

The common dispute here is the conflicting interests between the lessor and the lessee. Quite often the lessee is interested in extension of the lease which may not be in the interests of the lessor. This causes a lot of conflict between the two parties since they want different things. For instance, still using the example of Okello and Mulindwa, since Okello will have built a house on the land, he will want to renew his land for a longer period of time. But Mulindwa will not want to renew this lease because he will want to take the house and the land.

3

Problems under Freehold Tenure

The main problem attached to this tenure system is that a person who obtains a land title through fraud are rarely challenged in courts of law.

4

Problems under Mailo tenure

Though preferred by many, it is also coupled with a number of problems which include the following:

  1. Absentee landlords.. The law requires, as a mandatory prerequisite, that the tenant pays the busulu and in case of default, the landlord can apply to court to take over the land. Thus, the landlords sometimes hide purposely to defeat the tenant’s attempts to pay. In such a case, there is a conflict between the two parties which could easily lead to eviction of the tenant by the landlord.
  2. Rampant Evictions. It should be noted that titling of land and registration of interests of land is expected to guarantee safety of one’s interest. However even with all this in place, the issue of evictions seems to somewhat persist with mailo land. This eviction, as already stated is usually caused by absentee landlords that claim failure by the tenant to pay for the land use.
5

Conflicts in a family context

Many of the disputes and conflicts regarding land often arise in the family setting and include:

    1. The struggle for the ownership and occupancy of land which often arises between relatives and siblings since the many parties in the family setting usually have competing interests in the same land.
    2. Segregation against women when it comes to inheriting land given the predominantly patriarchal society in Uganda. It is worth noting that according to the law, both women and men are equal and can own land. However in many family settings, women are not allowed to own land which brings about several conflicts and disputes. For instance in an average traditional Ugandan family with 8 boys and 1 girl child, when it comes to inheritance of land, there is a high likelihood of the girl not getting any land which is against the law and could bring about conflicts and disputes.

 

 

6

Land grabbing and arbitrary eviction in Uganda

Land grabbing is a commonplace problem. There have been in recent times several complaints of land grabbing and arbitrary massive land evictions across the country. Some of the recent cases include:

Evictions in Kalangala District where people were mercilessly evicted by investor palm oil companies like BIDCO.

  • Evictions in Bukaleba forest reserve where a Norwegian forest group grabbed between 80,000 – 100,000 hectares replaced it with pine and eucalyptus. Over 13 villages comprising 0f 8,000 people were displaced.
  • Evictions in Luwunga forest reserve in Kiboga, by New Forest Company affecting 20,000 people in order to clear the forest and replace it with pine trees.
7

Disputes occasioned by natural disasters and conflict

Land conflicts also arise in times of war, and disaster for instance the case of LRA in northern Uganda and Bududa landslide where people were displaced and resettlements are met with resistance

8

Acquisition of land without compensation.

The government is lawfully empowered to compulsorily acquire someone’s land. However this can only be done after the government has adequately compensated the land owner. Therefore, a dispute usually arises as to when government attempts to carryout such developments before fully compensating the land owner. However it should be noted that a proposal by government has been made to the effect that such compensations should be made after government has acquired the land. If such a law is passed then there will no longer be a requirement to make adequate compensation before taking someone’s land.

9

The issue of Fraudulent acquisition of Land

In Uganda, it is a common practice for people especially investors to acquire land from the poor in a fraudulent manner. This is usually in a way that the less advantaged are forced into transactions they do not fully understand and it is through such shady transactions that they are lured into passing on their property. For instance in Osokoru, Tororo district government awarded a mining lease to a Chinese Company to mine phosphates. The occupants of the area signed a lease agreement for 99 years as opposed to the 21 years they thought they were signing which left them landless.

There is widespread perception that the powerful and wealthy community members take precedence over ownership and boundaries in order to grab land. This land grabbing issue is a global problem that has been criticized by several parties and on many occasions. For instance in the Tirana Declaration 2011*** which denounces all forms of land grabbing whether international or national. It also denounces all the local land grabs particularly by powerful local elites within in communities or among family members.

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