Sembabule District Local Government has decided to lift a ban on the issuance of land titles that had been in place for almost a year.
The ban was enacted in October 2022, in response to a report from the district’s production sectorial committee. The committee had highlighted that land disputes, largely stemming from irregular allocations facilitated by unscrupulous area land committees at the sub-county level, were hindering agricultural production in the region.
The report also uncovered instances where area land committees were permitting illegal occupancy on community social amenities such as valley dams, forest reserves, wetlands, and even at the Bigo bya Mugenyi archaeological site in Ntuusi Sub-county.
The ban was enforced after numerous complaints about fraudulent land title issuance. At the time, the terms of office for the area land committees and the district land board had expired, prompting a special audit request for the district land board by the district council.
According to Mr. Malik Mahaba, the Chief Administrative Officer of Sembabule, the district land board now has new members, and all area land committees have undergone restructuring. He stated, “We have new members of the district land board, and all have since been sworn in. So, the ban on the issuance of new land titles has also been lifted, and people are free to apply through the area land committees to obtain titles.”
In addition to lifting the ban, the district council has ordered a special audit of the previous district land board.
Mr. Champion Kananura, the district land officer, emphasized the importance of extending the land information system currently housed at the Ministry of Lands zonal offices to districts. He cited cases where land had been applied for and titled despite already being registered in someone else’s name due to the lack of a digital land information system.
Mr. Kananura also mentioned plans to educate members of area land committees and the district land board about their roles and related matters.
The land information system, established through a World Bank loan of Shs232bn and commissioned in 2017, aims to facilitate various land-related processes, including acquiring freehold land titles, transferring mailo land, registering caveats, subdividing mailo land, and replacing damaged titles through 22 zonal offices.
Lands Minister Judith Nabakooba expressed her ministry’s intention to introduce the land information system at the district level, although cost remains a significant hurdle. In the meantime, she encouraged individuals to seek assistance at the zonal land offices.
The Ministry of Lands officials have noted that the land information system has been effective in addressing issues like forgeries, corruption, and challenges associated with land records, some of which have been displaced in the past. For districts in Greater Masaka, the zonal land office is located in Masaka City, behind the central police station.