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In the previous chapter, we looked at the persons or group of persons or organisation that can take legal action to enforce land rights. In this chapter we focus on the remedies that one can get from courts of law. A remedy is a relief granted to an individual or group which has suffered loss of land or whose land rights have been abused.
The remedies available for one seeking to enforce land rights are divided into legal remedies and local administrative remedies.
A legal remedy is a relief granted by a court of law to a person or a group of persons that has suffered a loss as a result of a dispute. Land disputes in Uganda can be resolved by a number of courts in the hierarchy of institutions right from the magistrate courts up to the Supreme Court.
The Local Council Courts also have the capacity to try and determine matters relating to land and can grant remedies of reconciliation, declaration, compensation, apology, restitution, costs or attachment and sale or even a fine.
Legal remedies can be granted through court orders. When one’s rights are abused, such person has an option of going to court to seek for the available remedy. Generally, when one is successful in court, the remedy availed by court is referred to as a court order.
A court order can have several effects which include the following;
Injunction: An injunction can stop one from occupying or settling on another person’s land and can be temporary or permanent. This is usually granted in instances where a neighboring land owner is carrying on activities that lead to trespass on another person’s land. Court therefore issues an injunction stopping such a person from carrying on the unauthorized activity. For example if Mukasa is excavating stones and other construction materials from Musa’s land, court can issue an injunction stopping Mukasa from carrying on the unauthorized activities.
Courts can also give orders to prevent eviction. In cases of unlawful evictions, courts have the power to grant orders that stop such. For example in December 2016, the court issued an order stopping NEMA from evicting residents of Kito and Namataba villages in Wakiso where NEMA had initially only gave them 21 days evection notice for them to relocate (http://www.theugandatoday.com/news/2016/12/courts-stops-nema-evictions-in-namataba/)
Declaration: Court can declare that one is the lawful owner or is entitled to occupy that land. This is usually granted when 2 or more people are disputing over land. For example if A and B are disputing over land, court can hear and settle their matter and then declare the lawful owner of the land.
Cancellation of ‘questionable title’: A questionable title is one that is acquired in error, acquired through fraud or by mistake.Court can order cancellation of a certificate of title or registration of an interest in land in such cases. In cases where two titles are issued on the same land, court can order the cancellation of the other but the title issued earlier overtakes the subsequent one in the absence of fraud.
Disputes can also be settled through a consent judgment. A consent judgment is a decision reached by court upon agreement by all parties to the dispute. For example if Odong and Opio after taking their dispute to court agree to share land without having to go through the lengthy process of litigation, court can pass a consent judgment.
These are remedies that are granted by any other administrative organs other than court or a tribunal. These organs include the registrar of titles, land tribunals, alternative dispute resolution mechanisms, among others.
The power of the registrar to cancel titles
The registrar has special powers to change, cancel or issue a fresh certificate of title upon being satisfied that it was issued in error and that it contains illegal endorsements, among others. This is upon a complaint made by a person with an interest in the said land.
Tribunals are semi-courts with legal powers to adjudicate or determine claims or disputes. The law puts in place land tribunals such as district land tribunals that can determine disputes on land at a district level. Sub-county and urban land tribunals too have the mandate to determine land disputes in their respective areas. However, in practice these are not operational anymore.
Caveat is a Latin word for “buyer beware”. In land matters, a caveat is as a caution or warning to a third party interested in the land that other parties have interest in the same land.Once a caveat has been registered against the title, anyone searching the land at the registry can see that someone else has an interest in it. A beneficiary or any other person claiming any interest in the land can lodge a caveat on the land disputed land such that their right may not be randomly extinguished. When a caveat is entered on the register as regards a certain piece of land, no transaction can be made regarding the same piece of land until the caveat is removed or expired.
The law puts in place a land fund which is used to settle persons who have been rendered landless by government action, natural disasters, and any other case to assist persons to acquire land tittles to the same land. For instance the people from Bududa in Eastern Uganda were resettled in Nakasongola by government due to the occasional landslides that would cause death, destruction of property and other disastrous acts.
Sometimes settlement of disputes over land may be through an agreement or settlement without going to court. In Uganda, it can be through mediation, negotiation or arbitration (Refer to Chapter 8/New webpage equivalent)