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Mayiga: Kabaka’s 350 Square Miles of Land under Threat

Buganda Kingdom has rejected proposals to fuse Mailo and freehold land tenure into one, saying such a move would undermine the proprietary interests of registered owners of the land including Kabaka Ronald Muwenda Mutebi II.

In its interim report to President Museveni on 15 January 2018, the Land Inquiry Commission led by Justice Catherine Bamugemereire recommended the “reduction of current land tenures from four to perhaps three; freehold, customary freehold and leasehold.”

The revelation kicked up dust from different sections of the society including the Kingdom of Buganda who hold Mailo land titles worth billions of dollars.

Speaking to the Land Commission on Wednesday, the Kingdom’s Premier Peter Mayiga explained that the outcry arose out of the fact that no known public demand had been made before the Commission for the abolition of mailo land tenure.

Mayiga said it was unclear what the recommendation meant to registered owners of mailo land titles.

“Were they to be canceled? If so, would this not be contrary to Article 26 and 237 of the Constitution?” he wondered.

In response to these concerns the Commission issued a press release wherein it denied recommending “the abolition of ownership rights currently represented by Mailo land tenure.”

The Commission further stated that its recommendation was in fact that “efforts be made to fuse, over time, these parallel freehold type systems into a single tenure to introduce clarity and cohesions.”

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To the Kingdom, said Mayiga, and indeed other registered owners of Mailo land titles, the clarification created more confusion than clarity.

He said much as the Commission denied recommending the abolition of Mailo interest it in fact made clear that it wanted there to remain only the tenure of freehold, customary freehold and lease hold.

Mayiga said a change of land tenure enshrined in Article 237 of the Constitution would require a Constitutional amendment in accordance with Article 259 of the Constitution, as well as, the amendment of the Land Act.

He said Buganda Kingdom is apprehensive about the proposal and believes that Mailo land tenure is uniquely part of Buganda’s history and is now deeply engrained in its culture, customs and traditions.

“The mailo land tenure is unique in the way it recognizes the interests of the registered proprietors and occupants of land. Indeed, customary practices have developed that define the terms of ownership, usage, occupation and inheritance of land under the mailo land regime,” said Mayiga.

“It accords each party with specific rights and interests that have been recognized over the years. It is difficult to imagine how these would be defined and understood in a fused tenure system.”

He further stated that the unique character of the Mailo land tenure in Buganda may explain why, even after it was abolished by General Idi Amin in 1975, the Mailo land division in the Ministry of Lands remained and mailo land titles continued to be issued and held. In effect, he said, Mailo land tenure was only abolished in name and not in fact.

“It is sometimes wrongly argued that Mailo land tenure represents historical injustices of the land distribution under the 1900 Agreement. On this basis, it is argued that the abolition of this tenure would somehow redress these historical injustices. But these arguments wrongly presume that mailo land holdings today remain the same as they were in the early twentieth century,” said Mayiga.

“The reality is different because, as a result of conveyancing over the years, individuals and institutions, both within and outside Buganda, have acquired mailo land titles outside the colonial land allocations under the 1900 Agreement. Indeed, statistics available in the land registry show that the historical beneficiaries of land under the 1900 Agreement have long ceased to hold the land in question through succession, onward sales/transfers and other land grants.”

Kabaka’s Miles

He emphasised that as of today, the only entity that retains land as was allocated under the 1900 Agreement is the institution of the Kabaka who still hold the 350 Sq. Miles.

“This being the case, it would be the institution of the Kabaka that would be most adversely affected by a proposal to either abolish Mailo land tenure or somehow fuse Mailo land tenure with other tenures,” said Mayiga.

It is claimed mailo land tenure is responsible for the lack of proper planning and zoning of developments in peri-urban and urban centers.

But Mayiga said the problem of congestion, poor planning, slums, poor sanitation and haphazard developments can only be blamed on the lack of effective laws and poor implementation of planning laws and policies.

“Mailo land tenure does not prohibit or preclude urban authorities from formulating and implementing town plans within clearly demarcated development zones or set standards,” said Mayiga.

“In any case it cannot be argued that poor planning and slummy conditions in other parts of Uganda are attributable to the mailo land tenure. For these reasons, it is doubtful that the fusion of land tenures will miraculously result in proper planning of urban areas absent of effective laws and policies as well as effective and deliberate implementation mechanisms by urban and town authorities.”

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