The Housing Policy and Legal Issues - Uganda
Housing Policy and Legal Issues - Uganda
National Policy Framework
International Policy Framework
The 1995 Constitution of Uganda abolished the land reform decree and re-stated the systems of customary land tenure, freehold tenure, leasehold tenure and Mailo tenure. It also made new and radical changes in the relationship between the state and land ownership in Uganda it declared that land in Uganda would henceforth belong to the citizens of Uganda.
In the Constitution it is stated:
Land in Uganda belongs to the citizens of Uganda and shall vest in them in accordance with the following land tenure systems-customary, freehold, mailo and leasehold [Article 237].
The Constitution sets out quite detailed provisions in relation to land rights, while leaving other provisions to be determined by subsequent legislation. It permits the Government, or a local government body, to acquire land in the public interest, subject to the provisions of Article 26 of the Constitution, which protects people from being arbitrarily deprived of their property rights
Article 26 states:
Every person has a right to own property either individually or in association with others.[Article 26 
The Government embarked on the process of formulating a National Land Policy through a widely consultative process. The vision of the policy is: "Sustainable and optimal use of land and land based-resources for the transformation of the Uganda society and the economy". The goal of the policy is to: "Ensure efficient, equitable utilization and sustainable utilization and management of Uganda’s land and land based resources for poverty reduction, wealth creation and overall social economic development". The policy came at a time were land conflicts began occurring and have now ensued and are spreading nationwide, which includes massive eviction of people from land and increased dispossession of rights holders.
Objectives of the National Land Policy, among others, include:
Stimulate the contribution of the land sector to overall socio economic development, wealth creation and poverty reduction in Uganda;
Ensure planned, environmentally friendly, affordable and orderly development of human settlements for both rural and urban areas, including infrastructure development;
Reform and streamline land rights administration to ensure efficient, effective and equitable delivery of land services;
Harmonize all land related laws, and strengthen institutional capacity at all level of Government and cultural institutions for sustainable management of land resources.
The Land Act came into force in 1998, following five years of vigorous and controversial debate. Most of its provisions had been previously mentioned in the Constitution and the law was intended to give them practical effect. The two most important issues covered by the Land Act are ownership and tenure rights and land administration.
While the previous Land Reform Decree of 1975 had sought to increase control over land by the central government and make tenure conditional on the land’s development, the Land Act of 1998 is part of a very different policy. It expressly limits government owned land to that which was being used by the Government when the Constitution of 1995 came into force. It stipulates that if the Government requires additional land it must purchase this, either from a willing seller or through compulsory acquisition in accordance with the rights to private property contained in the Constitution.
The Land Act also upholds the constitution’s support for women and girls property rights by stating in Article 27 that any decision made on customary land according to thecustoms or traditions that denies women access to ownership, occupation or use of any land or violates the rights of women in the 1995 constitution is null and void. The 2004 amendment to the Land Act gives all spouses the right to security of occupancy on family land and requires consent of the spouses for transactions of family land.
The Land Act further outlines what obligations tenants and landlords have towards one another. The 2010 an amendment was made to the Land Act which requires court orders for a lawful or bona fide tenant on Mailo land to be evicted, and also requires landlords looking to sell to give tenants the first option to buy.
The land act follows the overall government policy of decentralised land management and dispute settlement mechanisms. The legislation requires the creation of a large number of new institutions for land management administration and land dispute dissolution.
The land management hierarchy starts with the Uganda Land Commission, which is responsible for all government land and related issues. The District Land Board is independent from the Uganda Land Commission and from any other government. It is in charge of all land at the district level. It is also responsible for, among others things, for managing and allocating land that does not belong to anyone,assist in recording, registering and transferring claims on land; mark, survey, plan, map and draw estimates on land; and maintain and revise lists of rates of compensation for loss or damage of property.
The District Land Office issues certificates of title and has technical officers such as physical planners, the land officer, the district valuer, the district survey and the district surveyor and the district registrar of titles. Together these persons give technical advice to the District Land Board to enable the board to carry out its functions.
Area land committee [ district] Assists the District Land Board on land matters, especially regarding the rights of customary land, helps people obtain certificate of customary tenure and certificates of occupancy, protects the land rights of women, children and persons with disabilities.
Recorder [Sub County, town, township, and division in the city], Accepts application for and issues certificates of occupancy and certificates of customary ownership, and keeps records of certificate of occupancy and certificates of customary ownership.
Land Dispute Resolution Institutions in Uganda include local council courts, magistrate courts, high court, traditional authorities, and mediators.
National Slum Upgrading Strategy
Slum upgrading is a process through which informal areas are gradually improved, formalised and incorporated into the city itself, through extending land, services and citizenship to slum dwellers. This strategy, released in December 2008, is Governments plan for how to address th issue of slums in Kampala and other cities across the countries. The document also offers an interesting overview of the current situation of slums in Uganda. To download the Strategy click here.
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