The dialogue revolved around how the Ugandan constitution protects land owners and what provisions it has for disposal and acquisition of land.
The land question has, in the last couple of years, become an important one to interrogate. The President Uganda has over the last few months undertaken a country wide campaign to educate and popularize the Land Amendment Bill in a bid to ease the process of the Government acquiring land for infrastructural projects. The issue is particularly controversial because it allows Government to compulsorily acquire land with or without the owner’s consent. Previously, an owner could dispute this before court and the projects would be put on hold as the matters were resolved. The Government now says such delays have cost tax payers millions of dollars in penalties paid to contractors as machines sit idle.
Because of land’s significance in Uganda’s political economy as not only a factor of production and measure of wealth but also as an identifier of heritage and cultural identity, issues pertaining to it are of particular interest to beneficiaries. Hoima in particular has seen a wave of land conflicts as oil companies have been prospecting for or extracting oil after oil from reserves that were discovered there a decade ago. This has led to a scramble to acquire land as its value has increased exponentially. A slew of land wrangles have emerged with hundreds of people displaced from land they have known for generations by greedy land buyers who circumvent legal channels of land acquisition. Furthermore, an influx of refugees into Hoima from the neighboring Democratic Republic Of Congo has made it even more scarce. According to a study by Transparency International Uganda, ‘Up Against Giants: Oil Influenced land injustices in the Albertine Graben in Uganda, over 1,500 households from two separate villages were evicted from their land which they had occupied for more than 49 years.
Against this background NAWOU convened a dialogue in Hoima involving residents, cultural leaders, district leaders, area land committee members to assess issues surrounding land acquisition, ownership, access and control. The training sought to educate participants on the legal framework governing land in Uganda, in order for them to safeguard their assets and also reduce on incidences of owners getting duped. Relatedly, they were educated on the different land tenure systems and which approaches to use when disposing or acquiring land.
Women and Land
Participants share ideas during a breakaway session.
Although women’s right to own and control land is enshrined in the Ugandan Constitution, they still remain a largely landless demographic. The most common form of land tenure system in Uganda is customary land, usually acquired through inheritance. In a patriarchal system where all inheritance is through the male line, women are automatically excluded from owning land. However, since women make up the bulk of the agricultural sector (77%), having no access to ownership or control over land means that they are disenfranchised from production of food and consequently improving theirs and their families’ livelihoods is made all the harder.
Women attended the often heated dialogue
During the dialogue, women were made aware of Section 39 of the Land Act which stipulates the need for spousal consent on any matters pertaining to land. It has become the trend for men to be compensated, leaving out women, as men are recognized customarily as the legitimate owners of land. Some men who have received compensation do not alert their wives and may even leave the family home, only returning when all their resources have been depleted. Some young girls are forced into early marriage when they become landless while some women are forced to remarry because of the need to access this critical source of livelihood.