Kampala: Concern Over Land Giveaways

Published on 8th September 2009

The Uganda Land Alliance (ULA), a consortium of local and International NGOs lobbying for fair land laws, is concerned about the recent spree of land giveaways by the government of Uganda.


During their recent land policy review meeting held at the Sheraton Hotel in Kampala, one member expressed concern at the new tactics of grabbing land from Ugandan citizens. It was noted that due to the ongoing food and financial crisis in many parts of the world, rich countries that largely depend on food imports for their livelihood, had embarked on a massive campaign to acquire cultivable land in poorer countries and at a cheaper cost to produce food for their own people.


Some of the countries highlighted in this campaign include Saudi Arabia, Japan, China, Libya and Egypt. The following concrete examples of modern-day land grabbing were highlighted:


Saudi Arabia through its private sector is exploring possibilities for land acquisition in Uganda, Egypt, the Philippines, Senegal, Turkey, and Ukraine;


In April 2008 during the World Islamic Economic Forum, the government of Kuwait launched a USD 100M fund code named “dignity living” to be invested in food production and agricultural development in Uganda;


The government of Uganda is said to have leased 840, 127 Ha of land in various parts of the country to the private sector in Egypt to grow wheat, produce organic beef and rice for export to Egypt. This acreage represents about 2.2% of Uganda’s total land mass; and


In 2006, President Museveni is said to have provided Chinese investors with 10,000 acres (4, 046 Ha) of land in Uganda, which is being utilized by 400 Chinese farmers using imported Chinese seeds of corn and rice. The project is overseen by Liu Jianun, a former Chinese government official and now head of the China-Africa Business Council.


ULA notes that while providing food to starving foreign comrades would not be a problem from a philanthropic point of view, some investors are simply camouflaging their ulterior business intentions. As a result of ambitious large scale commercial investments, fertile agricultural land and gazetted community resources like forests and wetlands are increasingly being encroached on.


Uganda Land Alliance appreciates some of the arguments put across by the government in support of massive investment for example; widening of the revenue base through taxes, employment opportunities, modernization, and foreign exchange.


However, while all this is happening, the poor people being bought off for such investments are being sidelined and are left with little options for their livelihood. At the end of the day, we are enhancing food security for others, while creating food insecurity for our own citizens. Besides, government seems to be giving away land haphazardly without following any clear procedures or agreed land policies.


Article 237 of the 1995 Constitution clearly states that “Land in Uganda belongs to the citizens of Uganda and shall vest in them in accordance with the land tenure systems provided for in this Constitution.” Though subsection C, provides that non-citizens may acquire leases of land, this must be as prescribed by Parliament. Even then, while government is allowed by subsection b of the same article to acquire land in the public interest, it still leaves to be desired as to who exactly determines when government is actually acting in public interest. By and large, government in essence does not actually own land.


ULA is aware that these issues are part of the ongoing national land policy formulation process, but is concerned that the process is taking far too long.  We urge government through Parliament, to establish clear policies on land giveaways to ensure that unsuspecting citizens are not taken advantage of by moneyed investors. The poor citizens of this country must be protected because the Constitution allows them the luxury to own land not only for cultivation, but for their livelihood.


By Tumusiime K. Deo,

Communications Officer, Uganda Land Alliance (ULA)

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