22 December 2012

Uganda: Which Land Tenure Guarantees Security?

It is wise to know the land tenure system where you want to buy a piece of land before you go ahead to pay for it.

If you pay for land before internalising the tenure system, you may live to regret. Many people who hit jackpots rush to buy land and later wail because of the technicalities on the tenure.

There are four land tenure systems in Uganda. These are mailo, freehold, customary and leasehold, all of which have advantages and disadvantages.

The Mailo land tenure:

The mailo land system is common in the central part of the country. The mailo tenure was introduced as a result of the 1900 Buganda Agreement, which divided land between the Kabaka, his chiefs and the colonial government.

Walter Bwire, a city lawyer, says people in Buganda should go for land under the mailo tenure. Bwire says land titles under mailo tenure are very easy to process, since land is already registered. "You just have to cut off the piece of land you have bought from the existing land tittle of the seller," he said.

He added: "It is also safer land to buy since it is already registered."

Since Mailo is found in the central region where businesses are concentrated, Bwire says it is of a high value.

Yusufu Nsibambi, the Kampala district land boss, added that mailo tenure provides security of tenancy since land ownership is permanent and passed on from one generation to another, hence favouring long term investments.

Leasehold land tenure:

Bwire says leasehold tenure cuts across the country since leases can be secured on all the other forms of tenure systems.

Leasehold is a system whereby land is held based on an agreement between the lessor and the lessee.

Nsibambi says leasehold tenure is not safe today because terms and conditions are easily manipulated and ownership revoked by the lessor before the expiry of the agreed period of time, making the lessee to lose land.

Nsibambi added that land grabbers in Kampala have mastered the science of changing terms to reclaim land.

"But before that problem emerged, there was no problem with buying land on leasehold. If the years of contract expired, you would renew the agreement," he said.

On the other hand, Bwire said it is cumbersome to process land titles under the lease tenure since the process is longer and costly. He added that banking and other financial institutions also have less regard for land titles under this system because of the challenges of security of tenure.

There are two types of leasehold, tenure arrangements, namely, private leases given to individual landlords and official or statutory leases given to individuals and/or corporate groups under Public Act terms.

Vincent Barugahare, the Senior wetlands officer in the ministry of water and environment (front) with ministry officials and Environment Police tour one of the wetlands in Kawuku in Gaba Kampala on December 7, 2012.

Freehold land tenure:

Bwire says freehold land tenure is found everywhere in Uganda.

He says people can convert the other land tenures into freehold and secure land titles from their district land offices.

"Freehold tenure shares characteristics with mailo tenure. Since there is no mailo in many other parts of the country apart from Buganda and some parts of Ankole, people elsewhere should go for freehold tenure. It provides security of tenure," he said.

Bwire added that financial institutions also have great regards for land titles which accrue from this land tenure.

The freehold tenure system was originally established to address limited requirements by religious institutions. It was granted as a result of the Toro Agreement of 1900 and the 1901 Ankole Agreement.

Customary land tenure:

It is the most dominant land tenure in the country. It is a tenure system where land is owned and disposed of under customary regulations.

Bwire says people have less personal interests under this tenure, leading to mismanagement and degradation.

As a result, he said, there are no proper records kept under the tenure, which makes it hard to resolve conflicts which accrue from such a system.

He discourages people from buying the land. He added that the process of procuring this land is also cumbersome.

Have you ever bought land while you were abroad? Were you satisfied with the deal? Tell us how you went about it by sending an email to homes@newvision.co.ug

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