Government of Uganda has proposed amendments to the compulsory land acquisition laws through the Constitutional (Amendment) Bill No.13/2017 that would remove the requirement for prior and prompt compensation of government projects affected persons as it is in the current Article 26 of the Constitution.
PELUM organized a Regional Parliamentary Caucuses on the Constitutional Amendment Bill No 13/2017 between the 19th to the 22nd June. The meeting was a four day breakfast meeting at Golf Course Hotel Kampala. The meeting attracted over 30 participants of whom they included representatives the Parliament of Uganda Members of parliament of the different Caucuses (Buganda, Acholi, Teso and West Nile Parliamentary Caucuses), Civil Society Organizations and Research Advocates. The main objective for the four day breakfast meeting was to mobilize and equip Members of Parliament (MPs) through their Caucuses with information, analysis, evidence and alternative policy proposals to enhance quality of debate on the proposed Constitutional Amendment Bill No: 13/2017.
The Regional Parliamentary Caucuses on the Constitutional Amendment Bill No 13/2017 was held with the respective parliamentary caucuses on the respective days, the Buganda Caucus on Tuesday, Acholi Parliamentary Caucus on Wednesday, Teso Parliamentary Caucus on Thursday, and the West Nile Parliamentary Caucus on Friday Ms Josephine Akia (Program Officer PELUM) recorded the opening remarks of the meeting, she mentioned that women are the most vulnerable when it comes to the issues of having access to land, ownership, and control of land. Women are the majorly constrained during the production of food since they cannot access land and have control over the land. The meeting was intended to mobilize MPs through their regional caucuses and equip them with information, analysis and evidence of cases related to compulsory land acquisition by government, provide MPs with alternative policy proposals for effective acquisition of land by government, and develop action plans for the advancement of the campaign.
The chairperson of the Buganda Parliamentary Caucus Hon Ssenyonga Muyanja stated that the land bill is so controversial, in that majority of the members of parliament, and people in the public don’t understand the status of the bill, and that the Bill was never withdrawn from the floor of parliament therefore MPs should seek for a formal withdrawal of the Bill before parliament. He mentioned that no amendments have been yet presented to the parliamentary caucus since the objection of the bill. In relation to compensation and valuing of the land for the proposed government development, participants mentioned that some valuations for the land are unrealistic, therefore urged government to set a minimum and maximum price for valuing of land and the price of compensation. In Uganda majority of land owners d are ignorant or do not know the size and value of the land they own, which provides an advantage for the government to value land at any cost.
Question for the amendment of the article 26 emerged, as how can the property right guaranteed by article 26 be balanced off against the concerns, does the right to access to court require full adjudication of disputes before acquisition, where shall it be enacted? Is the land acquisition act the same law as article 26, is it appropriate to deposit compensation in court as proposed in the amendment bill. Where are the standards of determination (fair and adequate) compensation? MPs questioned that what is public interest, who determines the public interest for the public?
From the deliberation from the respective parliamentary caucuses MPs noted that Civil Society Organizations in the campaign should conduct critical research on the number of Government projects that have been delayed due to delayed acquisition of land, and as well conduct research on complete compensations by the government. There is need to mount pressure on the government towards the fate and progress of the parliamentary committee on the consultations of the land amendment Bill article 26 of the constitution. The debate on the parliamentary floor once the bill is brought back before parliament should focus on the vulnerable people (women, and children) down at the communities who cannot get their voices heard by the policy makers.
However with the proposed amendment Bill, the meeting recommended that the current regime specifically the provision under the Land Acquisition Act should be applied to resolve the impasse of Article 26. The members of parliament recommended that there is need of joint sensitization of the public about the Amendment Bill of Article 26, standardization of the valuation of land, conducting consultations about the amendment Bill. MPs recommended that stakeholders should hold radio talk shows in their communities to bring the community on board on the subject of Article 26 expressing the cons for the amendment of the Bill.
By Frank Ntwatwa