Tuesday, March 1st, 2022 | By

Rev. Fred Musiimenta, a resident of Butimba village in Kiziranfumbi Sub County in Kikuube district has for the last eight years been struggling to get the land title for his customary land in vain.

According to Musiimenta, the process of acquiring land title from the village level to the district was simple after getting a private surveyor and some money to push the process. However, the documents got stuck at the Ministry of lands Zonal Office in Masindi that keeps bouncing him back.

“Every time my surveyor visits office, he is told that the registrar of lands has not yet signed on my land titles. It’s now 8 years while I am processing my land title in vain,” said Rev. Musimenta.

The story is not different from Jane Atuhura, a resident of Walukuba village in Butiaba Sub County in Buliisa district.  She says she has now spent almost seven years trying to process her land title but she is stuck because the Buliisa district land board is requesting a lot of money to have her documents processed.

The increasing land grabbing in the oil region has sparked the trend of conversion of land from customary to formal land tenures like freehold. This is because, however much the government recognizes the legitimacy of customary land systems, it does not come into reality. 

However, this trend has not benefited the local communities with little resources due to corruption and frustrating processes of acquiring land titles.

Atich Nelson, the speaker for Bugambe Sub County in Kikuube district says land grabs are made possible because of how simple it is for the land title owner to easily accuse the customary owners of being squatters on the land. He says local people are currently finding it hard to process the land titles.

“When two business men acquired land titles, it was easy for them to accuse the 250 families that were evicted in 2014 in Rwamutonga village in Bugambe district as squatters on the land. This is because, they had no document to show proof of ownership because they were staying on the land customarily,” said Atich Nelson during a focus group discussion for evaluation of NAPE’s Sustainability School work that was conducted by ROSA Luxemburg in February 2022.

In December 2021, the Minister of state for Lands, Mario Obiga Kania ordered for probe into alleged corruption by the district land boards in Bunyoro sub region after establishing that several officials are issuing the land titles to the rich at the expense of the poor.

According to the minister, the land boards are also frustrating efforts by the poor to acquire land titles for their land by demanding a lot of money to have their land documents processed.

Besides corruption, others think the delayed land title processes in the region could be a deliberate move by government so that they can find it easy it terms of compensation while acquiring land for various oil projects.

“In Buliisa, the district council passed land ordinance in 2018 that had land reforms protecting local people on customary land. However, the solicitor general has since failed to sign it. I believe this is a deliberate move by government to restrict many people from getting land titles since they have been finding trouble with title owners when it comes to compensation,” said a government official from Buliisa district local government who preferred anonymity to protect his job.

Fred Lukumu, the Buliisa district chairperson says government should offer free land titles to the people in the Albertine region to prevent them from oil-influenced land injustices.

He also said there is need to put stringent measures to protect communities on customary land.