OPINION: Ugandans Should Embrace the Proposed Land Act Amendment

Joshua Potel Mushwa

By: Joshua Potel Mushwa

The compulsory acquisition or Eminent domain as it is commonly known as, approved is a significant economic development tool that all Ugandans should embrace.

The right of government or its agent to expropriate private property for public use will facilitate great economic and community growth in Uganda.

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I empathize with those who might end up losing their homes in expropriation takings once the proposed amendment to the Land Act is passed and fully understand the history and emotional attachment that people have with their homes.

It is the place where education begins, families are raised, and values are formed. My empathy for property owners does not, however, naively supersede my compassion for the other point of view, which is the issue of combating poverty, unemployment, and crime.

If the land act is not amended and eminent domain is not available to the government as an economic development tool, individual property owners could effectively keep Uganda, and its citizens, from realizing the myriad of benefits associated with economic development by refusing to sell their property or by demanding extortionate prices leading to the development project no longer being financially feasible.

The reality is that the development projects that will commence once the land act is amended will most likely affect the former property owners’ quality of life as well as the rest of their community or even the entire country.

And while the property owners are making a larger sacrifice than others for everyone’s benefit, they will also reap the rewards of development.

I insist, however, that there should be a more fair and structured process for land acquisition considerations in regard to owner-occupied property takings such as;

The land acquisition must be done according to the law (constitution and Land Acquisition Act), the property should always be for public purpose.

If the acquisition is not for the public interest then it will be an illegal acquisition therefore the property cannot be used for any other purposes. For instance land that was left unused in the construction of a road cannot be sold or used for any other purpose and should be marked as road reserves.

The private land owner must be fully compensated, the compensation should be adequate and should be paid without any unreasonable delay.

Many other factors should be considered such as; the expenses incurred by a person who has to change his residence and damages that may be incurred on the owner’s other property.

Following the proposal to amend the Land Act, Dr. Kiiza Besigye and some politicians using the proposal to what I believe is to bolster their public image spawned a great amount of misinformation about the proposed amendment.

This spin has created a high level of concern among citizens that the proposed amendment allows public officials to give each other or the private sector handouts at the expense of homeowners.

Eminent domain is of national interest but every time it is mentioned, misinformed people’s arms are up in protest and curse the government in sheer bitterness.

Building national infrastructure, such as railways, housing, and sewerage, as well as democratically determined planning rules, either by national or local government, typically requires compulsory purchase.

Many of our residential and commercial properties that might end up being brought down, pave way for roads, railways, sewerage as well as other public amenities.

What Ugandans need to understand is that the government does not just wake up and decide to take up their property; there are many factors as well as procedures to be taken into account.

It is going to be extremely difficult for Uganda to take great strides in infrastructural development without the use of this compulsory purchase.

All Ugandans should be in position to benefit from the land act amendment if or when passed on condition that it is used judiciously.


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