The 2019/20 Budget: Lands among the Greatest Losers

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By Jude Ssebuliba

On 13th June 2019, parliament passed a 40.5 Trillion National Budget for FY2019/20 signifying a 20% increment from last year’s budget which stood at 32 trillion.

As some ministries, such as agriculture, education, health and transport, had an increase in funds allocated to them, the ministry of lands suffered a significant decreased from 202 billion in FY2018/19 to 193 billion.

This leaves one wondering if the government is aware that all development takes place on land and that without its prudent management and administration being facilitated with an appropriate budget, other sectors may not flourish as well.

To illustrate my case; without land ownership, where will people practice the agriculture that the government allocate 3 trillion for? How will people appreciate the roads constructed on the land taken from them without free, prior and fair compensation? Where will people live as they access the education that received a relatively high allocation? And so on and so forth.

Anyone working in the lands sector and every citizen keen to what is happening around them agrees that, for now, the Ugandan government has established a legal framework as well as structures from the national to local levels, i.e. district land boards, MZOs, LC courts, to address land issues. These are assisted by informal land administrators such as religious leaders, opinion leaders and family members. However, despite the land administrators’ willingness to serve their own people, their operations have always been hampered by the lack of resources needed to meet regularly to review cases reported, open boundaries, and the fact that their operations are sometimes compromised by those with more money which leads to them making wrong judgements.

In Eastern and Northern Uganda it is common, for example, to find ALCs that have never been inducted or who have never interacted with the land laws they are purportedly implementing, DLBs that probably last met a year ago, MZOs that are well constructed but cannot conduct business etc. In a situation characterized by numerous land rights violations due to a weak system, one would expect that the logical solution would be to, at least, increase the ministry’s budget, but, unfortunately our leaders would rather protect what is on the land rather than the land itself hence the state of the FY2019/20 budget.

In Buganda and other parts of the country there is double ownership of land i.e land lords and Bibanja holders. This has caused a lot of controversy and confusion leading to the illegal dispossession of Bibanja holders in most cases. The president was once quoted saying the solution to this is a land fund that would be used to pay of landlords so that Bibanja holders recognized by the law can have tenure security but if the entire sector must run on 193Bn, where shall the amount spared for the land fund be taken from? One reason why governments exist is to protect the rights of the weak, but in this instance, the weak are left to the whims of those that are strong.

As the affected parties are left unprotected, the land issue continues to worsen. Many are left in internally displaced people’s camps, and the populations of those camps are steadily growing due to this issue, especially in the cases of the Apaa, Mubende and Kalangala counties. If this continues they may have no choice but to turn to violence against the landlords, who are perceived as aggressors.

There is an urgent need to finance land administration institutions, allocate enough money for awareness creation among the communities, and for the land fund to be adequately capitalized in order for it to serve the purpose of its creation, otherwise, continuing to lessen the funding of the lands sector causes one to wonder; is the malfunctioning of the lands ministry intentional?