19 April 2017

Uganda: Katikkiro Mayiga Distances Buganda From Land Evictions

Buganda Katikkiro (Prime Minister) Charles Peter Mayiga has distanced the kingdom from the ongoing evictions of people from land belonging to the cultural institution.

With various victims of evictions pointing accusing fingers at Buganda Land Board (BLB) and, most recently Enkuluze (royal treasury), Mayiga told yesterday's press conference at Bulange, Mengo laid the blame elsewhere.

"Some of those evictions are by people who have secured lease offers from [BLB] and the kingdom can't be held liable for their actions," Mayiga said.

The press conference was called to launch BLB's new campaign dubbed "A title for everyone." But Mayiga mostly fielded media queries about the conduct of kingdom officials charged with the management of the Kabaka's estates.

Mayiga tried to downplay the actions of some BLB officials, instead praising their performance. He also apportioned blame to kingdom land tenants for disregarding regulations. But as journalists cited examples of highhandedness by BLB officials, Mayiga promised that the kingdom would investigate their actions.

"An action by an individual staff of BLB cannot be blamed on the institution. They are not representatives of the kingdom. We are going to investigate and take action on those errant officials," he said.

Mayiga also claimed some of the backlash from the evictions was because of "some masqueraders claiming to be representatives of the kingdom," who extort money from the public.

THE PROBLEM

Land evictions have become a common phenomenon in Buganda due to what President Museveni has consistently blamed on the 1900 agreement that created a class of landowners and another of landless subjects who live at the mercy of the landlords.

Museveni's views on land ownership in Buganda have on different occasions strained relations between Mengo and the central government. The president tried to thaw relations in August 2013, with the signing of an agreement with the Kabaka that returned key property to the kingdom.

But the problem still persists in different parts of the kingdom, sometimes resulting in protests by the Kabaka's subjects against their king. On April 15, angry residents of Bugabo-Ddegeya village in Kalagala sub-county, Luweero district set on fire an excavator, which was being used to evict them from a 107-acre piece of land.

Local reports indicated the aborted eviction was sanctioned by the Enkuluze, but Mayiga roundly refuted the claims.

"While it is true that that land is under the Enkuluze, it is not true that we [the kingdom] are the ones that sent the excavator. That land was leased to a private developer and he is the one who was carrying out the eviction," Mayiga said.

Asked why the kingdom leases out land with bonafide tenants, Mayiga said, "We can't lease land with registered tenants. That is why we ask all our tenants to register and secure their tenancy on Kabaka's land."

The Luweero incident came two weeks after Mengo officials demolished part of Busaabala beach, which belonged to singer Robert Kyagulanyi aka Bobi Wine.

TITLE FOR EVERYONE

To cement its relationship with compliant tenants, Mayiga announced the kingdom's plans to issue land titles to all those who are registered. The massive registration and survey exercise, which was launched in 2015, led to registration of more than 130,000 tenants.

"To us, this is an indication of the willingness of the tenants on Kabaka's land to verify ownership of the land they occupy and attests to the good relationship that the tenants have with the Kabaka," Mayiga said.

Mayiga said the directive will be effected over a period of six months, during which the tenants will acquire a 49-year lease offer regardless of the existing situations on ground.

"This will secure the tenancy of the hitherto bibanja holders, which eliminates the possibility of eviction at anytime," Mayiga said.

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