Why a good gesture is sparking fireworks
The latest effort by Buganda Kingdom to enhance the security of tenure of millions of people sitting on Kabaka’s land has sparked fear, panic and apprehension among the supposed beneficiaries, political leaders and indeed some ordinary members of the public.
But closer analysis of the campaign reveals that those who grab the offer of leasehold certificates could benefit now, and more so in the future, suggesting that the hullabaloo being raised about ‘Kyapa mu Ngalo’ is simply a storm in a tea cup.
In a surprise move to many, Katikkiro Charles Peter Mayiga announced the Kyapa mu Ngalo, a special arrangement through which Mengo is offering Bibanja owners on Kabaka’s land limited time certificates of ownership or popularly known as leases.
Mengo has described the rates being charged particularly on the 49 year leases currently being issued under the ongoing six months campaign as an offer, arguing that market rates are much higher.
Using Hajat Mariam Nakitende (not real name) of Namasuba as an example, BLB has asked her to pay Ushs4.4m for a 49year lease title for her land measuring close to quarter of an acre. BLB is also asking her to pay an annual fee Ushs190,000 for 45 out of the 49 years. This is in addition to the money she spent to buy the Kibanja.
Although Mengo insists that the exercise is voluntary, it has not stopped politicians from fanning the flames of conflict and fear among ordinary people that the plan is extortionist in design and intent and should therefore be rejected.
Also Kyapa mu Ngalo has deepened suspicion and confusion about Buganda’s intent somehow, after the lease period expires, owners of the leases may lose their land and the developments put thereon, if the occupants unknowingly or knowingly fail to renew the lease.
Former lands minister Aidah Erios Nantaba, who currently holds the docket of assistant minister for Information Communication Technology (ICT) and National Guidance described the move as a fraud and an attempt by Buganda Land Board at land grabbing noting that the on-going illegal transfers where land exchanges hands without owners consent is set to grow.
Nantaba argues that the practice of leaseholders losing their land remains a common worry among many Bibanja holders. Using examples from her home district in Kayunga. She says that leases have been terminated without the consent of the Leaseholder and by the time the owners went to the lands department to have the lease extended, their leases had already been terminated without the consent of their consent.
Nantaba said that previous questionable practices by Buganda Land Board, the latest campaign does not offer enough guarantees that leaseholders will be safe.
Nantaba advises Buganda Land Board to instead issue free-hold titles because people sitting on Kabaka’s Land are more of customary occupants with no limits.
But Buganda Land Board insists that freehold or perpetual ownership of Kabaka’s land is not permissible for purposes of providing for the interests of future generations.
BLB said in a statement that: “Buganda kingdom land is on the mailo tenure system. Under the law, freehold certificates of titles are not issued on mailo land. The Kingdom only issues leasehold certificates of title. It does not allocate perpetual ownership of land. If our predecessors issued perpetual ownership, the current generation would have no access to the Kingdom land.”
But Buganda Land Board has assured those who get to obtain the leases that they will have an automatic right to renew their leases. What is not clear is that the terms of renewal have not been clearly indicated, deepening suspicion and anxiety.
“BLB acknowledges the fact that there is a special relationship between the Kingdom and people on Buganda kingdom land. Under this relationship, the Kabaka offers a maximum of 99 year leasehold term and a minimum of 49 years to all tenants on kingdom land for those who wish to acquire leasehold titles.
“This is a special arrangement that includes an automatic renewal clause upon expiry that can be ignored if the lessee expresses lack of interest of renewal before expiry. During the period of expiry, the lessee maintains his/her status until the process of renewal is completed,” said BLB in a statement issued to calm the storm resulting from the announcement.
In opposing the new arrangement, some people have insisted they will remain Bibanja holders.
Wamala Gyaviira, a researcher and Buganda loyalist suggests that it is not necessary to acquire the lease from Buganda Land Board on both the Buganda Land and Kabaka’s Land because to service a lease is too expensive compared to a Kibanja.
In fact Buganda Land Board argues that those who opt for this choice are entirely free.
But Gyaviira is not entirely right by arguing that leaseholders get no added benefits.
Contrary to the widely publicized fear that the plan is dangerous, one needs to appreciate its benefits.
Buganda’s fast growing population and rapidly urbanizing areas have brought new demands and dynamics about land use that go beyond merely construction of one’s domicile. For many years, Bibanja holders did not feel the need to obtain certificates of title because Kampala, Wakiso and many other places were largely village settings.
As stated by Buganda Land Board’s statement recently, increasingly new developments such as authorization of a plan in any municipality requires one to possess a title. Other institutions such as banks also require that one possesses a certificate of title to qualify for a mortgage or loan.
Besides being able to stake the land in any other transactions, the lease title increases the value of the land as the geographical boundaries and ownership are very clear.
Further, as BLB pointed out in its statement, a holder of a lease certificate of title has the capacity to issue titles in form of condominiums, sub-leases or make sub-divisions, which makes the titled land more marketable and beneficial to the owner.
Despite the apparent benefits, Kyapa mu Ngalo has not deterred its critics to utter vile language to decampaign the move. Some observers attribute the hatred to Mengo’s past mistakes regarding broken promises to Bibanja holders to be given certificates of tenancy.
Many people are still nursing anguish brought about by similar initiatives that ended up costing people their hard- earned money in return for no titles.
One of the most infamous fraudulent exercises waged by officers from Mengo was carried out by a company infamously known as K.K. The latest campaign has ignored any outstanding claims and complaints by hundreds of people who paid money under this and subsequent schemes.
Nakitende, the Namasuba Kibanja holder referred to earlier, for example says she has lost close to a million shillings in four different exercises by Buganda land board to try to secure her tenure.
At first, Nakitende told The Sunrise, that she and many of her neighbours, were made to pay Ushs 80,000 and above by K.K Properties in order to be recognized. They were later told that the money was lost.
Later on, Buganda Land Board returned to Nakitende with another juicy offer of registering tenants if they paid Ushs80,000. They were given dumb cards as a recognition of tenancy.
Nakitende says she was perturbed to learn two years ago that BLB had another offer of surveying the land at Ushs600,000/=. Nakitende paid for all this. Now she has been asked to pay Ushs4.4m for a 49 year lease. On top of that, Nakitende says she has been asked to pay an annual ‘tax’ of Ushs190,000 to BLB for the 45 years.
Although Nakitende says she is determined to secure the lease, she does not hide her frustration at the inconsistencies of BLB on land matters.
Buganda land board behind evictions?
The latest campaign follows a highly publicized eviction of popular artist Buganda loyalist Kyagulanyi Ssentamu alias Bobi Wine from part of Kabaka’s land near his Busabala beach. Kyagulanyi cried that Buganda Land Board (BLB) had unfairly evicted him.
Later on, information emerged that the land which was occupied by Bobi wine was owned by another Kingdom department dubbed (Balangira and Nkuluze) literally meaning the royals in line with the throne.
Kiwalabye Male, Buganda Land Board Executive Director, dismissed Kyagulanyi’s mistreatment accusations and instead blamed misreporting on the part of the media for blowing things out of context.
Male confirmed that some lease holders tend to masquerade in the name of Buganda Land Board to oppress the Bibanja holders. He cited recent incidents in Luweero that saw tenants being deprived of their land by a landlord holding a lease from Buganda Land Board.
He further blamed individuals for defrauding unsuspecting members of the public in the name of Buganda Land Board.
Are we nursing the effects of Undesirable 1990 agreement?
On June 22, 2016, Lands Minister, Betty Amongi, described the mailo land tenure as an unfair way of land acquisition as introduced by the 1900 pact between the British colonial government and Buganda Kingdom.
Under the agreement, the land in Buganda was shared between the king (Kabaka), his royal family, ministers and county chiefs.
Part of the land in Buganda and other parts of the country, however, was vested in the in the Queen of England (crown land).
Similar land holding systems were introduced in Tooro and Ankole in the 1900 and 1901 agreements respectively. Bunyoro Kitara Kingdom, which rebelled against colonialists, did not sign similar agreements with the British at the time.
In the pre-colonial times, land in areas that constitute Uganda and East Africa today was owned communally. The kings and tribal leaders held the land in trust for the people.
In 1895 William John Ansorge, who was then the acting commissioner in Buganda, had introduced a freehold land tenure system opening up land ownership to all but this had been swiftly defeated by Mwanga and loyal Baganda. Its worthy to note that prior the 1900 agreement freehold land tenure system was the system that worked in Buganda and apparently no land issues existed.
A source from government seeking anonymity, explains that the 1900 Agreement gave Buganda a privileged position in the Uganda Protectorate that it would continue to enjoy throughout colonialism which would tantamount to a great land grab in modern history.
He says the 1900 Agreement was laid on selfish terms, made between British officials who were keen to cement their rule indirectly through pliant collaborators, and local chiefs led by Katikkiro Apolo Kaggwa.
In his book “The Struggle for Land in Buganda 1888 – 2005” historian Prof. Samwiri Lwanga: the agreement took away land from the hands of politicians and put it in the hands of private individuals.
Under ordinary circumstances, the free ownership of land ought to have encouraged its more efficient use and would have prevented the arbitrary eviction of peasants by the masters (Land Lords).
According to the Agreement, the chiefs who had obtained land were supposed to have redistributed it since they held it in trust for the people. Instead they took possession of the land as personal property.
“This was the crux of the land settlement in as much as it concerned the Baganda beneficiaries. Right from the beginning they acted in breach of the agreement,” argues Prof. Lunyiigo.