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The Observer | Is the land amendment bill a Trojan horse? By MOSES KHISA

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Posted August 5, 2017 by Ugandan Diaspora News Team in Uganda Land Bill ~ 837 views

     

By MOSES KHISA — A few weeks ago, I stated in this column that land is likely to be the next major frontier of social conflict and violence in Uganda in the near future.

Of course land conflicts are already rampant. They can only get worse. There has been deepening pressure and stress placed on a fixed factor of production that is land, and in a country where the vast majority are poor and can only count on land as their sole valuable possession.

But beyond the commercial value, people also have invaluable emotional and cultural attachments to their land that make it something they are willing to die for.

Now we have woken up to the rather ill-thought move by the NRM government to amend the Constitution and grant a free hand to the state to seize private land.

This is ostensibly for public works purposes, to avoid protracted valuation and compensation processes and enable government push ahead with attaining middle-income status; when?

The government claims that valuation and compensation impose unnecessary delays on especially infrastructural projects such as road construction and public-interest investments.

Not many people believe this assertion. There is a sense in which Ugandans have grown too distrustful of General Museveni’s government such that even where there are genuine intentions to serve a broader, public good, people are cynical and suspicious.

There is little public trust in the intentions and actions of the rulers. At any rate, it appears that battle lines are being drawn early on. Either government will back off or we might be in for a serious fight ahead.

Strong sentiments have emerged against any move to pass legislation in favor of compulsory land acquisition before proper valuation and appropriate compensation.

There have been some unmistakable voices from very powerful figures in Buganda where the land question is most contentious and the stakes are highest.

Considering the powerful vested interests and the emotiveness surrounding the land question, why would this government toy with this idea well aware it is likely to cause public uproar and ultimately fail?

As many have rightly pointed out, the argument that road construction projects take long because of delays in compensation is rather shallow and self-serving. There are many road projects that took forever to complete for reasons other than land acquisition.

Rather, the problems in public works projects in Uganda go beyond compensation to a bigger institutional decay, inefficiencies and endemic corruption that cut across all government departments and ministries.

It is not just the roads sector that has had long periods taken to accomplish something however small. Paying pensioners or compensating laid-off workers can take ages because officials involved are working out how to get their slices of the monies.

But even in the roads sector, there have been delays to finish a road project where land acquisition and compensation may not have been an issue.

The reconstruction of about a kilometer stretch of Jinja road from the Wampewo avenue roundabout to Nakawa took years to complete yet it is unlikely there were any compensations to landowners as this was an existing road that only required redoing and a little expansion.

The same can be said of the Iganga-Tirinyi-Mbale road that only requires re-tarmacking. My sense is that we may well be up for a bait that will exercise all our energies and engage all our attention yet the real issue at hand is something else.

Already, there are voices in parliament and among the public that they can put up with lifting the presidential age limit but cannot stand the proposed constitutional land amendment.

It is interesting how Ugandans easily settle for quick compromises. We are stuck with an imperial president who many believe is ruling the country illegitimately.

Many of us would perhaps pay little attention to his longevity in power, but the fact that misrule now pervades Uganda’s body politic and malfeasance reigns in the public sector makes Museveni’s continued clinging to power utterly reprehensible.

The proposed constitutional land amendment might well be a Trojan horse. The architects of imposing a life-presidency on the country might be working to detain the public in arguments over land such that, in the end, removing the age limit will be seen as a lesser evil which we can entertain.

We need to see through this gimmickry. The age limit project is no less a nefarious plot than the move to use the law to commandeer people’s land.

In fact, the latter, as a bad law, is a consequence of the machinations that go with a regime that has stayed beyond its sell-by-date.

The foremost struggle we face today is not to save our land from a parasitic government; it is a struggle to free our country from the current mis-rulers, to save ourselves from the embarrassment of being misruled for decades by one man with a dubious claim to being our savior – a messiah.

moses.khisa@gmail.com


About the Author

Ugandan Diaspora News Team

Ugandan Diaspora News Online is an independent, non political news portal primarily aimed at serving Ugandans who work and reside outside Uganda. Our aim is to be a one stop shop for everything Ugandan and the celebration of our Ugandan heritage.

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