The State Minister for Housing Chris Baryomunsi has said that his ministry is set to bring back the controversial Land Bill (Constitution Amendment Bill No. 2 of 2017) to Parliament for discussion.
The Bill, through which government sought powers to acquire land for development without first compensating the owners, was first tabled before Parliament in 2017 and was withdrawn late 2018 over concerns that if passed into law, it would be infringing on people’s land rights.
“We want to retable this Bill so that government projects are completed faster. The prevailing land law has delayed projects due to difficulty in land acquisition,” Baryomunsi said while presenting the ministry’s progress in the implementation of the National Resistance Movement 2016-2021 Manifesto in Kampala last week.
The Bill is intended to amend Article 26 of the 1995 Constitution to facilitate faster land acquisition by government for public infrastructure development.
On first tabling, the bill faced critical reactions from the public as it appeared to present a deliberate plan by the state to grab people’s land.
“The president has toured the whole country sensitizing the public about the benefits of this bill. To my surprise the rural people have understood it better than those in urban areas,” Baryomunsi said.
Quoting from article 26 of the 1995 constitution, Baryomunsi said that the government still reserves the right to acquire land and property as long as it is in line with public interest.
“Article 26 says that although land belongs to you, the government reserves the right for compulsory acquisition of land and property for purposes of national development, security, defense, public health and other areas that are defined in the law provided you the owner is paid fair and adequate compensation that should be paid prior before acquisition of land and property,” he said.
“You may find a situation where the government wants to establish a public project and all people accept compensation but only one refuses claiming huge sums of money. This is the situation we want to rectify,” he added.
Speaking at the same occasion, Willis Bashasha the chairperson of the manifesto implementation unit said that hard land acquisition had been the greatest challenge as far as implementation of pledged projects was concerned.
“Almost every ministry that comes here presents land acquisition as the main challenge,” he said.
Uganda has a population of over 45 million people according to current estimates. Seventy percent rely on agriculture which is practiced on land. If retabled and passed as the government wishes, the government shall compulsorily acquire the land as long as it is a public project and compensation is done either immediately or later.