December 2009
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Day December 1, 2009


Fellow forum members,

When discussing the Land Bill- now passed into an Act of parliament, no one should begin to be an apologist for the Buganda Mailo landlords. The new law brought in by the Land Amendment Bill is a long overdue action to redress the historical injustice concocted by the 1900 Agreement. Under the agreement more than 9,000 square miles of Buganda Kingdom was freely distributed as private property to just over one thousand chiefs, notables and members of the Buganda Royal Family. This was an injustice of monumental proportion because at a stroke of the pen the vast multitude of ancestral inhabitants of the Kingdom of Buganda became landless.

For more than a century now thousands of  inhabitants of the Kingdom of Buganda and Kibaale district have been at the mercy of mailo landlords and subjected to summary eviction from their own ancestral homesteads by mailo landlords. There is unbelievable distortion which portrays mailo land as a legitimate cultural land tenure system of Buganda. well it is not. Kabaka Muwanga was deposed because he opposed the imposition of the terms of the 1900 agreement and subverting of Bataka land. Upon hearing about the 1900 agreement terms Kabaka Muwanga, who was by then deposed and exiled to the Seychelles was reported to have described the agreement in the following terms: “I cannot imagine the effect which this visitation (1900 Agreement) will have upon the Bataka and my people”.

Now for the first time real action has been brought to bear on the mailo landlords. By removing the unfettered ability of the mailo landlord to evict inhabitants, authority of land has been restored to the rightful owners.. However, some critics of the 2009 Land Amendment Act say that by setting an artificial cut off point of legitimate claim on mailo land to those settled inhabitants for the last twelve years only,  the law is too lenient to the landlords and leave thousands of people disenfranchised from their ancestral land rights in Buganda and Kibaale. These critics would prefer the cut off point for “legitimate settlement and claim” on mailo land to date as far back as the reign of Kabaka Mutesa I, and thus predating the 1900 Agreement.

The Buganda elites have cherry picked their arguments and remained unrepentant about their role in a monumental colonial fraud. For instance, they readily accepted the law amendment which transferred ownership of the 9,000 square miles of land (this land is different from the 9,000 sq. miles which was distributed to just over 1000 Buganda elites) previously vested as crown land to the Kingdom of Buganda on 8th October 1962. However they rejected the 1964 law amendment transferring present day Kibaale to Bunyoro and now again they reject the new law amendment which equally restores the land rights to the ancestral inhabitants of Buganda.

The Uganda government meanwhile has been overly lenient in its quest  to set up a Land Procurement Fund of nearly 2 trillion shillings in order to buy off the rights of thankless mailo landlords. And yet the mailo landlords paid nothing when they got the land allocation under the terms of the 1900 agreement.

The Land Amendment Act is thus one of President Yoweri Museveni’s best reforms equalled only by the promulgation of the homegrown 1995 Constitution of Uganda.


Pilipo Oruni Oloya

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