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EXPERT ADVICE: Tips On Detecting And Avoiding Land Grabbing

look http://cromatest.mx/media/widgetkit/widgets/slideshow/styles/tabs_bar/template.php geneva;”>In the past, prostate land grabbing occurred when land that was previously used by the local communities was leased or sold to outside investors including corporations and governments, visit this site but however this is no longer the case, the act seems to have made a twist.

Powerful rich landlords are mercilessly evicting their occupants without any form of notice or compensation and “the poor” as the victims are referred to have acquired knowledge and tricks on how to grab the rich man’s land.


Though this may sound untrue, but I have come across cases where families wake up to a morning of bulldozers grading their homes and gardens by a “mugaga” as the rich men are commonly referred to and without any compensation are left homeless and I have also witnessed cases where the landlords have followed the legal procedures of repossession, carried out negotiations with their tenants, paid them money as compensation and the same tenants after requesting the landlord for time to vacate the land run to political leaders with false accusations of illegal evictions.


Without any investigations the political leaders intervene to save the “so called innocent poor people”, halt the vacation and the landlords compensation costs and investments are all flashed down the drain.


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This has caused landowners through their association to question the Governments approach to handle this vice. The approach has been termed “unfair and unjust” as the government seems to pay no attention to their side of the story, but instead gives full attention to the tenants hence crippling the landlord tenant personal relationship of willing landlord, willing tenant basis.


They add that with the New Land Policy in place they are even more worried that the tenants have been given more power to take over possession of their land disregarding the essence of a land title stipulated in section 59 of the Registration of Titles Act that gives the Certificate as Conclusive evidence of title.


They fear that in the end the land is going to become useless to them and they will just leave it for these tenants.


This brings us to the question of how can we detect and avoid this land grabbing. Today I will begin with tipping the Landlords.


To answer this question it is first of all important to determine whether an occupant in possession of your land is a trespasser or kibanja holder/ bonafide occupant and this can only be answered by the law.


Section 30 of the Land Act 1998 clearly defines a lawful occupant and bonafide occupant as


A person occupying land by virtue of the repealed Busuulu and Envujjo law of 1928, the Toro land and Tenant Law of 1937 and the Ankole Tenant and Land law of 1937


The tenant who entered the land with the consent of the registered owner and includes a purchaser


A person who had occupied former public land as customary tenant but whose tenancy was not disclosed or compensated by the registered owner at the time of acquiring the leasehold Certificate of title


2) Bonafide occupant means a person who before coming into force of the constitution


Had occupied and utilized or developed any land unchallenged by the registered owner or agent of the registered owner for twelve years or more


As seen above the land Act creates conflicting interests over the same piece of land. This means however that If you are in possession of a title of land which is occupied by a squatter/ Bonfide occupant, it is your registered land but the squatters kibanja and you both have interests over the same piece of land and cannot remove the other at will.


Therefore we can deduce from the above observation that a trespasser is:

A person who enters on your land without your permission or consent. The earlier you notice this person and deal with them the better for you to save your land from being grabbed.


Keeping this person on your land is only to your detriment. This usually happens on land which is unattended to by the landlords. Some landlords who may not be ready to develop their land abandon it and in the end become victims to trespassers and encroachers.


I always advise the landlords with such cases to fence off their land, put up a small structure and find a caretaker to keep the land away from such land poachers. In the end this saves your time and finances from court suits that precede such cases.


Under Section 31(1) of the Land Act we note that a person who has utilized and occupied or developed any land unchallenged by the registered owner for less than twelve years and does not even take reasonable steps to seek and identify the owner for the purpose of undertaking negotiations on that land becomes a trespasser on that land.


However, like John. T. Mugambwa noted in his book “Sources of Land Law” it is very difficult to determine the genuineness of such an occupant since that may already be the motive. A person could occupy what he or she knows belongs to another person and plead that the owner was not available.


landlords

First of all I don’t except such circumstances in this age and era where a landlord may not be aware of activities taking place on his land for more than a year.


Therefore the only way you can avoid such situations is by keeping regular checkups on the land, so as to defy the defense of “not knowing’ by such occupants. However was mainly common in the past in cases of “absentee landlords” especially caused by tyranny regimes.


When it comes to the issue of the Kibanja holders, which is the most common case lately, you/landlords should know that you are unable to recover possession from such a tenant as long as he/she is prepared to go on paying ground rent.


The Land Amendment Act 2010 even asserts their security that they can only be evicted by the courts of law for nonpayment of the ground rent.


Short of that his/her occupancy is exclusive. I always advise landlords with such cases that the only way they can come around this, is to keep a cordial relationship with their tenants, getting in their bad books or crossing their paths, can only bring them trouble.


To note, under this tenancy the issue of boundaries has been a point of contention between the landlords and tenants as the law is silent on it.


Recently I handled a matter in Buikwe where the landlord in possession of about 100 acers of land was facing a problem with a Kibanja occupant who over the years has been shifting his boundaries, was now occupying 40 acres of land and was asking the landlord to compensate him for the 40acres.


The landlord was complaining that it wasn’t fair, but the truth of the matter was he was in trouble because he was unable to prove his claim. The receipts of Busuulu and Envujjo do not verify physical boundaries and he was left with oral evidence as his only option. In this case oral evidence could only be provided by witnesses who are neighbors to the accused.

The neighbors are also under the same tenancy and to be on the safe side can only defend their own, because they probably have done the same thing, so the landlord is left in a loss. I therefore advice you/landlords with bonafide/bibanja tenants that before anything is done, you should in their presence, that of Local Authorities, Police Land Desk and District Surveyor ascertain the boundaries of your tenants occupation and keep records signed by all the parties and witnesses to the exercise, each office maintains a copy, so as to avoid this form of land grabbing in future.


Another form of trespassing is under the Land Amendment Act 2010 where the law has tried to harmonize the relationship between the landlord and tenant by giving the right of pre-emption.


Where one party wants to sell his/her right of occupation through negotiation the first priority is given to either party. This means where the lawful occupant defies his obligation to fulfill the above legal provision the transaction between the previous occupant and the new tenant is invalid.


Therefore the new occupant becomes a trespasser and the land is reverted back to you/landlord. Landlord should report such cases immediately to the relevant authorities especially Land Protection Unit under the Police.


In situations where the landlord has followed the procedure in section 31 of the land Act for repossession and a satisfactory agreement arrived at between him and the tenants, compensation has been paid and acknowledged as received by the tenant in the presence of the mediator or local authorities, but the occupants have changed their mind and declined to vacate the land, these are trespassers.


In the current situation they run and hide under the wings of political leaders claiming they are being illegally evicted.


I therefore advise political leaders to always take time to investigate such claims before making orders and that is including the landlord to prove his side of the story. In this way justice is attained.


However, I advise landlords who are victims to such acts to seek redress from courts of law if the matter gets political.


With some of these tips I believe innocent landlords who are caught up in this act are able to detect and tackle land grabbers and save their land. They are also able to keep themselves from consequences that come with the act, hence being able to develop their land.


Lawful Occupants/ bonafide Occupants keep on watch for your tips next week.

For any queries or advice contact writer on sandygyenii23@gmail.com

The author is a legal advisor to the President

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