The government is considering extending a helping hand to religious institutions to secure their land in a bid to ward off encroachers, The Sunrise has learnt.
The statement was made by the State Minister for Lands Persis Namuganza said that the government is considering supporting the survey, demarcation and processing of land titles for all land owned by religious institutions.
While attending the installation of the archdeacon of Ivukula in Namutumba district, Busoga, the minister said the move is part of subsidiary measures in the land restructuring process that also includes proposed amendments to the land act.
“It is absurd that fellow Christians connive to encroach on Church land because they have full information and knowledge about it to the extent that Christians recently threatened the archbishop and Bishops during the tour of part of the Church land in Mukono. We need to end such” she said.
Her response followed complaints by the Bishop of Busoga Diocese Rt. Rev. Paul Moses Samson Naimanhye over rampant encroachment on Church land.
The proposed land amendment bill seeks to give sweeping powers to the government to obtain rights over private land without the consent of the owner. But the proposed amendment has been criticised by a number of people and institutions as unconstitutional. But the proposed support to churches could be seen as a bait by the government to lend support from religious institutions to back the government’s proposed bill.
Churches and mosques own a lot of land in Uganda, on which they operate schools, health centres and other social and economic institutions. But the same religious institutions rejected a plot by Kampala Capital City Authority a few years ago to manage their schools. Churches cited fears that KCCA wanted to grab their land.
Article 26 (1) of Uganda’s Constitution states that; Every person has a right to own property either individually or in association with others.
Sub-section (2) (b) goes on to state that in case someone is disposed of his/her land; this will be made after; “Prompt payment of fair and adequate compensation, prior to the taking of possession or acquisition of the property,”
But the minister said the proposed amendment are meant to bring about a situation where the government can make use of land for public developments that would benefit society.
The minister challenged people to individually guard their land by demarcating it and also planting trees to protect, preserve and conserve the environment.
Besigye’s take on proposed law
Dr. Kizza Besigye, the four-time presidential contender this week joined critics of the proposed amendments to the law. In a lengthy opinion in the Daily Monitor, Besigye described the proposed amendment as a land grab.
Besigye linked the proposed amendments to a plot by the government to grab people’s land through ‘accelerated land registration’ is a plot to forcefully grab natural resources such as oil.
The key questions that must be addressed first are why? Why now? “Why is changing land law being pitched by the Museveni regime as a quick fix to prevent land grabbing and resolve disputes?”
Besigye alleges that Northern Uganda’s huge natural resource endowment is tempting the government to engage in evil pact with foreign investors to gain access to land.
“The regime believes that the key to accelerating transformation (in Northern Uganda) is access to land and land markets by controlling the law that creates the markets for acquisition, buying, selling, leasing and taxation.” But Besigye argues that the biggest barrier to the government’s efforts to carry out a massive land grab is the 1995 constitution.
“The only thing preventing the rape of Northern lands is the 1995 Constitution, which bestows radical title and ultimate ownership of land with the people of Uganda.
This includes the right to hold a piece of land according to customary law.”
Besigye has urged Ugandans to ‘reject outright the proposed amendment to article 26 of the constitution.”