As the demand for land continues to grow, land has become a commercialized product in Uganda today. In addition to that, the demand for private land has increased: as outlined in our previous blog, Uganda has embarked on implementing an industrial policy, for which it requires a lot of lands. The increased use and demand for land has resulted in more evictions, both lawful and unlawful. In this blog, we look into more detail to find out the exact drivers behind evictions.
Compulsory Acquisition versus Evictions
It is important to distinguish between compulsory acquisition and evictions. Although they are very similar in nature, they are not the same thing. Being forced off land that is considered protected natural reserves is likely to be part of evictions, especially if there was prior knowledge about the rights to live there. On the other hand, if the government approaches people about the need to buy land for developmental projects and it actively negotiates with the citizens, we’re more likely talking about compulsory acquisition. There is, however, a thin line between the two, which has led to increasing concerns around evictions. Often, we see that evictions are a go-to resort in land disputes.
Uganda Policy of Industrialization
As we have talked about before on this platform, Uganda has embarked on a mission to become a middle-income country. To do so, the government has set a National Policy of Industrialization in place to accelerate development. The government and development partners find themselves having an increasing need for land. This is one of the reasons the government is seeking an amendment of Article 26 of the institutions. But simultaneously, evictions and compulsory acquisitions have been taking place. People fear that evictions will be increasingly used as an instrument to acquire disputed land Similarly, it is feared that the government might use evictions as a quick or last resort when compulsory acquisition doesn’t serve its purpose.
Evictions: The Law & Awareness
Fortunately, there are laws to protect residents against evictions. It starts with acquiring certificates, either a certificate of occupancy, a title or certificate of customary ownership. It also helps to what the law says on evictions. For instance, what should a landlord do when the tenant fails to pay ground rent (obusuulu), but also when a landowner or tenant carries out illegal activities on his or her land, such as illegal mining? Similarly, encroachment on protected natural reserves such as game reserves, wetlands etc. without permission from the government/relevant government authorities can also induce eviction from those areas and such evictions could be legal. However, it is important to note that evictions should not be used pave way for development projects; in those instances, the tenant is entitled to fair, adequate and prompt compensation.
Furthermore, excessive force should not be used to conduct evictions. Often, the police and army are used to intimidate and evict tenants. The police do not have the mandate to conduct evictions. A recent example is the case of Lusanja in Wakiso district where 350 homes were demolished using a falsified court order.
Although the damage caused by forceful and often unlawful evictions cannot be undone, the aggrieved party always has a right of access to the court to dispute the evictions and/or seek compensation. Also, the government is often obligated by law to support in resettlement and rehabilitation of those who have been forcefully and/unlawfully evicted.
Our poll question for the week assessed the most frequently given reasons by communities for evictions in their area. These, more or less, are in accordance with the above. Whether they are legal or not is however more difficult to determine. Some of the key reasons we identified are listed below:
Acquisition of land for development by government
Conflicts between Landlords and tenants/clan
Acquisition of land for the extractives industry
Encroachment on protected areas
Acquisition of land for private investment
The data collected from this poll question will be used to support the advocacy efforts of land actors in Uganda.
To view the poll results we collected, visit: https://tracfm.org/p/?search=cm2+1.3