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Ownership of Land

The Chapter focuses on how individuals can own land and the tenures under which the land can be held


Tenure refers to the mode or system of holding land. In Uganda, the law puts in place four different land tenure systems:


Customary Tenure

A form of land management where land is held in accordance with a set of rules binding a certain people. Simply put, it is a form of land holding or ownership where the owner of the land is subject to the traditions of a particular community. These traditions vary from one community to another. For instance, in Acholi sub-region in northern Uganda land is communally owned and managed according to the traditions of a particular clan.


Leasehold tenure

A system under which the lessor (registered owner of land), grants the lessee (a tenant), exclusive possession of land usually but not necessarily for a period defined. Basically for this sort of tenure, a land owner lends out his land to a land user for a specified period of time. After expiry of that time period the land owner retains his land and whatever is attached to that land. For example if Mulindwa lends out his land to Okello for ten years and Okello builds a house on the land, Mulindwa will be able to take back his land plus the house after the ten years have elapsed, provided the lease is not renewed.


Freehold tenure

Under freehold, the evidence of title is a conclusive evidence of ownership. This basically means that whoever holds the title is presumed to be the lawful owner of the land in question. For example under freehold, if John has a land title registered in his names, he is presumed under law to be the rightful owner of the land. However this presumption can be challenged by evidence to the contrary. Such evidence can be for instance whether the title was acquired through fraud.


Mailo Tenure

This involves the holding of registered land in perpetuity and permits the separation of ownership of land from the ownership of developments on land made by a lawful or bona fide occupant. In simple terms, with Mailo tenure there can be a landlord that owns the land but with tenants occupying the land and owning the developments attached to the land. For instance in Buganda there are tenants known as kibanja holders and together with the landlords. The kibanja holders are required to pay Busulu which is an annual payment to the landlord.


How Are Rights Acquired ?

Rights to land under the above tenures can be acquired through:

  • purchase
  • inheritance, gift, or marriage
  • occupation or usage over a period without interruption
  • grant from the government


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