16 August 2017

Uganda: Land Amendment Bill - Residents Ask Akena to Divorce Minister

Photo: Daily Monitor
Relatives and in-laws have threatened to disown Lands minister Betty Amongi.

Lira — Relatives and in-laws have threatened to disown Lands minister Betty Amongi for marketing the controversial Land Amendment Bill. The Bill seeks to give government powers to acquire one's land without first adequately compensating them as it carries out its projects on it.

In light of the Bill, the line minister, who hails from Lango sub-region, is being looked at as a traitor at her home backyard despite her fulfilling her Cabinet responsibility.

During a consultative meeting where MPs from Lango sub-region were seeking views of the residents about the proposed land amendments at Uganda Technical College, Lira on Monday, some residents called on Lira Municipality MP Jimmy Akena to divorce his wife over the Bill. The residents booed Mr Akena as he made his speech.

Mr Akena, a son of former president Milton Obote and Ms Amongi got married in April 2013.

During the meeting, Mr Patrick Rolex Akena called on the MP to disown his wife for fronting the controversial Bill.

However, Mr Akena hit back at those asking him to divorce his wife because of the proposed Land Amendment Bill, saying he cannot do such a thing.

"I will not disown my wife here. I cannot do such a thing," MP Akena told hundreds of residents gathered at the meeting.

In anger, the residents heckled and booed Mr Akena for defending his wife's support for the controversial Bill.

Ms Dina Bua, a former district councillor in Otuke District, shouted that the microphone which Mr Akena was using should be grabbed from him.

The visibly shocked Akena could not believe that he was getting that kind of treatment from the same people who have often referred to him as the only 'atin kic' (orphan) of the deceased former president.

After composing himself, Mr Akena told the residents that he had listened to their cried about the proposed law, saying he had taken note and that he would not "betray" them.

"I heard many people saying let things remain the way they are. Before coming here as this matter was heating up, I wrote my own recommendations on how we can address some of the problems in the Land Act, not the Constitution," he explained.

"I stand by the position to protect the rights of the citizens. I will not go against aspirations of the people of Lango and I am going to struggle to find a workable solution... ," he added

Lango Parliamentary Group chairperson Felix Okot Ogong said almost all the legislators from Lango sub-region are opposed to the new proposed land law. He added that they would not betray their constituents by embracing a law that they (residents) are opposed to.

"You can see it clearly that the people of Lango have rejected the new Bill and that will now help us substantiate that whatever minister Amongi is saying is not the voice of the people of Lango. She is either doing it individually or fulfilling her Cabinet responsibility of the principle of collective responsibility," Mr Ogong said.

However, Ms Amongi had a day earlier, while appearing at a local radio station, said those against the Land Amendment Bill are ignorant and they don't understand the law.

The law

Recently, the government tabled in Parliament the Land Amendment Bill to change Article 26 of the Constitution aimed at facilitating quicker land acquisition for public projects.

The amendment proposes that where the owner of property or any person having interest in or right over property objects to the compensation awarded under the law made under clause (2)(b), the government or local government shall deposit with court for the property owner or any person having an interest in or right over the property, the compensation awarded for the property, and the government or local government shall take possession of the property pending determination by the court of any dispute relating to compensation.

This, according to government, is aimed at fast-tracking the development of government projects that have in the past been hindered by unnecessary court litigations by the owners of the land.

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