20 September 2017

Uganda: Museveni Faces Sceptism As Government Seeks Land for Projects

Poster explaining Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni's proposed constitutional amendment for provision for compulsory land acquisition promise answers to all queries on the matter.

But rather than answer questions, President Museveni has been crusading against what he terms as "selfish" individuals keen to cheat government and sabotage important infrastructure projects, especially roads and railways.

The choice of where to start the citizen mobilisation effort -- the western Uganda districts of Kabale, Mbarara, Kabarole and Kibale -- is curious, as the nature of land conflicts there are far from what the proposed amendment hopes to solve.

The most serious battles between the state and landowners over infrastructure is hardly present there, but accusations of government land grabs are rampant and the proposed amendment does not address them.

"How can these liars say that we want to grab your land?" President Museveni asked on September 6 on the Fort Portal-based Voice of Tooro radio.

"Historically, land never belonged to the people. Before the colonialists came, land belonged to the kings or clans. Where there were no kings, when the colonialists came, land was parcelled out to the kings, their collaborators -- those betrayers who helped them colonise us -- as freehold mailo, some was called crown land and therefore belonged to the Queen of England.

"When we attained Independence, crown land became public land. When Amin took over, he turned all the land back to government.

It's only the National Resistance Movement who, in the 1995 Constitution, changed all this and said that land belongs to the people. So how can I be the same person who wants to grab land?"

Through the media blitz, President Museveni is reaching out to the masses, selling his views on the proposed amendment.

Some members of the NRM party's caucus have openly challenged him and voiced their opposition to the amendment.

But whether his message is being accepted is a different matter. Until his syndicated press conference at State House, Entebbe on September 13, President Museveni has been fully in control of the message, with State House officials vetting hosts and letting in only those agreeable to the President.

Explaining his plan on radio, President Museveni runs a monologue for almost an hour before inviting select ministers to clarify some of the issues of contention.

It's not clear how this format helps the president answer questions about the proposed land amendment, and whether the public understands his motives.

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