Conflicts In Uganda’s Land Tenure System

In 2012, I authored a backgrounder on Uganda’s land tenure in which I highlighted and demonstrated how Uganda’s dualist land tenure system is a root cause of conflict over land use and ownership.

Uganda’s constitution stipulates:

“All land in Uganda shall vest in the citizens of Uganda and shall be owned in accordance with the following land tenure systems: customary, freehold, mailo and leasehold.”

(Republic of Uganda, 1998: 4985)

Within these land tenure systems are codified “Traditional African” meanings of land ownership and as well “Global Western Meanings” of land ownership.

Increasingly, conflict over land in Uganda results from the dynamics of the dual meanings in our land tenure. It is especially so, for instance, as corporations’ quest for Land intensifies.

Case in point, this past week, social media in Uganda has been on fire. Women in Soroti in North-Eastern Uganda publicly stripped naked in protests of a move to grab their land in the name of ‘development’.

Some condemned the actions of the women as backward, barbaric, etc., the usual insensitivity which does not accommodate the root causes of land conflict in Uganda. Others, me inclusive, thought otherwise.

Until one has faced injustice that threatens their livelihood and home, one should be careful to judge the actions of those who feel thus threatened.

There is no doubt, inconsistent with our Constitution, our current land tenure laws facilitate land alienation, threaten livelihoods and contribute to food insecurity. Given the nature of land disputes in Uganda, reform is needed to move forward and develop a land tenure system that works for the country.

Examples of different models from other countries, like China, may offer inspiration for an improved system in Uganda. The discussions in my backgrounder are even more relevant in today’s Uganda. You can download it free from the Africa Portal, Backgrounder No. 26, “Conflict in Uganda’s Land Tenure System”, published May 2012,

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