KAMPALA. Kabaka Ronald Muwenda Mutebi has described the proposed Constitution amendment to give government powers to compulsorily take private land for public works, even when compensation is pending, as a “pain”.
This, the Buganda king noted, poses an existential threat to the future generation.
“At this point I want to thank Prince Kassim Nakibinge for the words he said expressing worry about the Constitution Amendment Bill [on land]. And one of your grandchildren, Bishop John Baptist Kaggwa of Masaka Diocese, also spoke that he has not understood the issue about that Bill,” he said while meeting Mbogo clan members at his palace in Lubiri, Kampala.
Kabaka Mutebi was referring to Prince Nakibinge’s speech, almost a fortnight ago, at celebrations to mark the return of the remains of the late Prince Nuhu Mbogo who died in exile in Zanzibar 122 years ago.
The prince had said that a move to amend the law on government’s land acquisition without compensation will deprive many people of their ownership rights.
The Deputy Attorney General Mwesigwa Rukutana mid-last month tabled in Parliament the Constitution Amendment Bill, 2017, that seeks to amend Article 26 so that the central or a local government can, in the event of disagreement with a land owner, take possession of any private land for development and deposit compensation money with a court pending resolution of the dispute.
Kabaka Mutebi, who owns huge tracts of land, said he does not understand the details of the new bill.
“Such things are a pain. This is why we get so worried when we hear things in certain laws, because we have not understood them clearly,” he said.
The government argues that compulsory acquisition of land is necessary for infrastructure projects because many of such developments have stalled because owners refuse to surrender land for public works, costing the public money and depriving communities of services.
The Uganda Law Society has also weighed in, and along chorus of other dissenting voices, said the proposed change is unnecessary.
This debate has polarised Ugandans leading to public altercation, mostly along political lines, prompting the Cabinet on Friday to read the riot act to rival groups not to bottle up each other’s views.
During the 24th Kabaka Mutebi coronation anniversary in Mubende, Prime Minister Ruhakana Rugunda implored the kingdom officials to share their view on the Constitution Amendment Bill, 2017.
Buganda kingdom prime minister Charles Peter Mayiga, who is critical of the bill, said they will reject it. Land is generally an emotive subject among Ugandans, majority of who rely on it for survival, and it has a particular significance in Buganda where a political fall-out between the kingdom and the central government in 1966 resulted in expropriation of the former of its land.