2 February 2013

Uganda: Land Registry Reopening Delayed By Wrangles

The inauguration of computerised lands offices is set to delay further due to a widening disagreement between the Ministry of Lands and districts over the fate of the district lands offices.

The leaders in six districts where the zonal offices were supposed to be located in the first phase are opposed to the merger of the districts land offices and the zonal offices.

What the lands ministry wants is the district land offices be phased out and incorporated into the zonal offices.

In a move reportedly aimed at decentralizing land management, the merger and subsequent inauguration of the zonal offices was supposed to take place in mid- January but that did not happen.

According to the ministry, the merger will also see the staff of the districts' land offices incorporated into the zonal offices.

But the district leaders strongly oppose the move.

Mukono District Council recently passed a resolution blocking the takeover of its lands office.

The district chairman Francis Lukooya Mukome said the council preferred the local land offices to remain in place and to continue serving the locals.

Lukooya said there was nothing bad with the ministry decentralizing its activities as long as the district's land offices remain intact.

"The council is fighting the merger because it is against the Constitution and decentralization.

"The zonal offices are not anywhere in our Constitution of Uganda or in the Local Governments' Act. Embracing them will be a breach of the Constitution," he said.

He sees the merging of the zonal offices as a way of taking away the power of the people to manage their lands.

"We have been vigilantly monitoring the districts lands office to ensure good service delivery. If zonal offices take over the management, locals will have to seek redress from the permanent secretary who is far from them," the district chairman pointed out.

Kampala District Land Board chairman Yusuf Nsibambi said Parliament has to amendment the Constitution to include zonal offices before they can take over the management of land issues.

But the ministry of lands permanent secretary Gabindadde Musoke said retaining the district land offices in the presence of zonal offices would be duplication of work.

"The local politicians don't understand this but we shall explain to them what it means and sort it out," Gabindadde said.

Government was supposed to flag off the computerized zonal offices on January 15, but earlier this week, the ministry issued a statement, saying it had been extended.

The first six zonal offices are supposed be located in Kampala, Wakiso, Mukono, Masaka, Jinja and Mbarara.

Wakiso LC5 chairman Matia Lwanga Bwanika said Wakiso also strongly opposed to the takeover of the district lands offices.

"The district lands office is one of our major sources of local revenue. We need to agree on a number of issues before we can give it out. That is why we have advised the ministry to go slow and do its work in phases," Bwanika said.

Mbarara LC5 chairman Dues Tumusiime also said his district does not welcome the idea of taking over the merger.

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