The land Tenure Systems in Uganda
The Land Tenure Systems in Uganda
There are four types of land tenure systems recognised by the Constitution of Uganda; Customary, Mailo, freehold and lease hold. The Land Act 1998 defines ‘freehold tenure’ as a tenure that derives its legality from the Constitution and the written law. Freehold tenure may involve either a grant of land in perpetuity, or for a lesser specified time period. The Act specifies that the holder of land in freehold has full power of ownership of it. This means that he or she may use it for any lawful purpose and sell, rent, lease, dispose of it by will or transact it in any other way as he or she sees fit. Only citizens of Uganda are entitled to own land under freehold tenure. Non-citizens may lease it for a period up to 99 years.
Leasehold tenure is a form of tenure whereby one party grants to another the right to exclusive possession of land for a specified period, usually in exchange for the payment of rent. Any owner of land in Uganda – whether through freehold, Mailo or customary tenure – may grant a lease to another person. In practice, much of the land that is leased was previously owned by government bodies, particularly the Land Commission and the District Land Boards, and these tend to impose some development conditions on the land’s subsequent use.
The Land Act 1998 treats Mailo tenure almost identically to freehold tenure. Registered land can be held in perpetuity and a Mailo owner is entitled to enjoy all the powers of a freehold owner. The only significant difference is that Mailo owners should not use these powers against the interests of customary tenants, bona fide or lawful occupants. This provision was introduced due to concern at the possible mass eviction of thousands of people who were occupying Mailo land, as customary tenants or squatters, at the time when the Act was passed
One of the most innovative aspects of the Land Act 1998 is in the recognition it gives to those who hold their land under customary tenure. With the exception of land in Buganda (which is mainly held under Mailo) and urban areas (where it is held under freehold, or leasehold) most land in Uganda is held under customary tenure. The 1995 Constitution restored recognition of the rights of those who held such land and the Land Act explicitly recognized that customary law should regulate this form of land tenure. There are a number of different types of customary land tenure in different parts of Uganda. In some places the land is held communally, in some it belongs to a particular clan while in others it is held by individuals. The rules of customary law also vary in different parts of the country. The Land Act 1998 states that customary land tenure shall be governed by rules generally accepted as binding by the particular community. Anyone who acquires land in that community shall also be bound by the same rules. The exceptions to this are that no custom is permitted which is ‘repugnant to natural justice, equity and good conscience, or being incompatible either directly or indirectly with any written law’