Authorities in Nakasongola District have asked government to expedite the mass roll-out of the Land Fund ahead of the planned city status slated for 2023.
They say the city will serve residents better when they assume land ownership rights. About 85 per cent of the district population occupies land owned by absent landlords.
Last year, the government announced that they had finalised the process of issuing free land titles to at least 1,300 households after successfully compensating the absentee landlords .
The targeted beneficiaries are in eight villages across Kalungi, Kalongo, and Lwampanga sub-counties. However, local leaders say the compensation has taken longer than anticipated.
"We fear that the process may not take off before the city status is rolled out. We should not have a city where majority of our people are squatters. Nakasongola is among the top districts that government had earlier lined up as beneficiaries of the Land Fund but our hope is fast fading," Mr Sam Kigula, the district chairperson, told a council meeting last week.
Mr Kigula said many residents are reluctant to venture into development projects because they do not own land.
"What government implemented in Kibaale District should be done in Nakasongola as well . The absentee landlords in Kibaale were paid off,giving way to development projects," he said.
Mr Fred Bogere, the Nakasongola Town Council councillor, said the fund should be accompanied with a special programme targeting infrastructure and economic activities.
"Like it was the case with other regions, including Karamoja and northern Uganda, it would be prudent for government to have a special programme targeting the welfare of the people of Nakasongola," he said.
Mr Noah Mutebi Wanzala, the Nakasongola County MP, said although area legislators initiated the request to have residents benefit from the fund just like other areas, the programme has been delayed.
"We shall continue demanding the Land Fund for our people. I am going to find out the status of the land titling project ," he said. Mr Wanzala said the targeted beneficiaries of free land titles, who settled on the estimated 10.8 square miles, have for many decades been harassed by some absentee landlords through illegal evictions, destruction of property and injustices in land disputes .
About 80 per cent of cases that are registered at the Office of the Nakasongola Resident District Commissioner (RDC) involve land eviction threats.
"I believe the land fund, once fully rolled out, will resolve many of the challenges," Mr Dan Muganga ,the RDC, told Daily Monitor during sensitisation tour by Uganda Land Commission officials last year.
Residents of Kigejjo Village in Kalungi Sub-county, who are living on Block 128, Plot 19, said some people who wanted titles were conned by landlords.
"We sold our cows and gave money to our landlord after promising to give us our respective land titles. We are now in a dilemma after realising that the same land had already been sold to the government and we are supposed to get free land titles. We are not sure whether the money that we gave to the landlord can be recovered," Mr Jerome Ssebbaale, a resident, said.
On April 18, 2020, Parliament approved the creation of 15 new cities where several municipalities were elevated to city status, including Arua, Gulu, Jinja, Mbale, Mbarara, Fort portal, Mbarara ,Soroti ,Lira ,Hoima and Masaka effective July 2020.
Other new cities will be rolled out in 2021, 2022 and 2023, respectively.