UGANDA, TANZANIA, MOZAMBIQUE AND SOUTH AFRICA Source: Liz Alden Wily with Sue Mbaya, A Study of Land, People and Forests. The Impact of Property Relations on Community Involvement in Forest Management (forthcoming IUCN, 2000).
LAND REFORM IN UGANDA Tenure reform began in 1988 with the establishment of a committee under the Ministry of Agriculture to look into ways to increase security of tenure and to make land more freely available for investment. Research into tenure systems was conducted with the support of USAID and the Wisconsin Land Tenure Center. Inevitably, the direction and scope of identified tenure change needed altered and expanded. From 1993 four Bills for a Land Tenure and Control Act were drafted, eventually gazetted in early 1998 as a Land Bill, and enacted in mid-1998.
By 1995 the new Constitution of Uganda had set the policy framework, with a strong orientation towards the democratisation of property relations. This was manifest in the removal of root title from the state and its vesting directly in landholders. Significantly, Government did retain ownership of environmentally-significant resources including forests to itself. Democratisation was to be furthered through the removal of authority over property titling and transfer from Government to district level autonomous Land Boards. Dispute resolution was to be similarly removed from the Government-supported judiciary into a regime of independent land tribunals.
The Land Act, 1998 included a rigorous timetable for establishing the new institutional framework for new land management and dispute resolution and a funding mechanism to support the capacity of local people to benefit from its provisions (e.g. to title their land, or to buy out landlords under the mailo system).
In practice, implementation has been slow and problematic, dogged by apparent lack of support within central Government for the reform and financial incapacity to deliver the promised institutional changes. The ambitious target dates for institutional development have not been met. The new regime of District Land Boards is in place in name but few are operational. The planned new Land Tribunal machinery for dispute resolution has not yet been implemented. The requisite 4,000+ Parish Land Committees have not been formed. Regulations to guide the operations of Land Boards have not been approved and those for the Tribunals are yet to be formulated. The statutorily-required Land Fund is not yet operational. Difficulties arising from the fact that the new law did not fully revise the registration laws are beginning to be felt. There has been some social unrest as a result of land disputes not being able to be held in ordinary courts and remaining unresolved. Land grabbing and squatting on ex Government Land has flourished in especially urban and peri-urban areas and Municipal Councils are experienced a dramatic loss in revenue from no longer being able to charge rent on properties, with consequent fall in service provision.
A programme of national sensitisation has however been fairly successfully launched and most citizens are apparently now aware that their customary right in land is secured and that they may no longer be wantonly evicted. A helpful study has been carried out to examine the practical implications of the Land Act and to propose how the Ugandan state may realistically set about implementing the reform. Amendments to the Land Act have begun to be drafted to address some of the worst constraints. These include an intention to ask Parliament to allow courts to hear disputes until the tribunals are in place, to reduce the number of Land Boards and Committees needed for tenure administration, and to include a new clause of spousal co-ownership which did not appear in the law, although positively supported in Parliament. Amendment will also be sought to put a hold on certain categories of land until the state is able to define exactly which land in urban and rural areas [estates], it will retain as its own property.