In recent discussions, there has been a suggestion to change the way land ownership works in Uganda. A professor, Prof Nyeko Pen-Mogi, has proposed amending the Constitution to allow the government to own all land in the country. Currently, the law states that land belongs to individuals.
Prof Nyeko Pen-Mogi, who is the acting chairperson at Uganda Land Commission, argues that government ownership of land would make it easier to lease land for development purposes. He believes that this change could help solve issues related to acquiring land for important infrastructure projects and eliminate delays caused by compensation negotiations.
According to Prof Nyeko Pen-Mogi, the current system allows some landowners to put up small houses in slum areas and charge low rent. He suggests that under government ownership, private-public partnerships could be formed to build affordable high-rise housing, providing better living conditions for those in informal settlements.
He also mentioned an incident in Mpigi District where a family demanded a significant compensation for a tree, delaying a road construction project. If the government were to own the land, such situations might be avoided.
However, this proposal could disrupt the existing land tenure systems and reopen debates about culturally sensitive issues related to land ownership. It’s worth noting that previous attempts by the government to acquire private land without compensation have faced strong opposition.
At a conference organized by Kampala Capital City Authority, Prof Nyeko Pen-Mogi suggested re-writing a provision in the Constitution that currently states that all land in Uganda belongs to the citizens and is owned under various land tenure systems.
This idea of government ownership of land is reminiscent of a controversial declaration made by former President Idi Amin in 1975, which converted all land in Uganda into public property.
The government’s chief legal advisor, Attorney General Kiryowa Kiwanuka, declined to comment on the proposal, stating that it has not been formally presented to him. None of the Lands ministers offered comments on the matter either.
Buganda Land Board (BLB), which manages institutionally-owned land under the Mailo tenure system, expressed disagreement with the proposal. They believe that land problems are not solely related to land tenure systems and that the focus should be on improving land management efficiency and reducing corruption within land management agencies.
This proposal comes six years after the government faced opposition to a Constitution Amendment Bill in 2017, which aimed to change property ownership rights and compensation rules.
Reactions to Prof Nyeko Pen-Mogi’s proposal vary, with some experts and officials expressing concerns about the potential economic and social consequences. Others believe that the solution lies in efficient land utilization and urban development.
This debate on land ownership coincides with Cabinet’s examination of findings from a judicial inquiry into the land sector, which includes recommendations for improving tenure security and encouraging productive land use.