Certificate of Customary Ownership of Land in Uganda, Caution Please!

These are 2015 UN Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat) Recommendations on Certificates of Customary Ownerships of land that is under Customary Tenure in Uganda:

Before implementing any CCO (Certificate of Customary Ownership) intervention in a particular area, document customary land tenure rules applicable to specific communities at the district or sub-county levels.

It is important to make an inventory of common property resources owned by communities and vest these resources in the communities to be managed under customary law. This would reduce the risk of recurrent land conflicts over communal areas like grazing lands. Due to the lack of a clear inventory, common property resources are highly susceptible to mismanagement and being grabbed by powerful groups of individuals.

The process of issuing CCOs needs to be thoroughly reviewed through wide consultation with cultural leaders who are seen to be the custodians of customary lands. A number of elders are still sceptical about the process of issuing CCOs and the manner in which it is managed.

There are perceptions that the young generation, which is not keen on the restoration and preservation of cultural values, may use CCOs to mortgage and / or sell land to investors without considering cultural values. This contradicts the customary principles and practices in which land ownership is attributed to the entire community, including the ancestors, those who are currently living on the land, and future generations.

It is also important to build the capacity of grassroots people through sensitization of local communities on customary rights, so that they are able to make informed decisions. Many rural communities are illiterate and do not understand the procedures to apply for CCOs. These procedures should be translated into the languages best understood by people.

The Ministry of Lands should also provide simplified guidelines for land inspections, which can easily be understood by the ALC (Area Land Committee) and communities.

The MLHUD should also review and simplify the CCO application form to ensure better understanding and protection of customary land rights.

Protection of the family and the rights of family members should be at the core of the criteria used for the approval of CCOs.

Given the nature of land holding in northern Uganda (chunks), ALCs should ensure that all rights are captured during an inspection and the DLB should ensure that all CCOs issued on family land for dwelling is registered in the names of the wife / husband and children to safeguard it.

Implementation of CCOs should not be entirely left to ALC members and District Land Boards. There is a need to adequately involve cultural leaders throughout the process. Most cultural leaders hold the land in trust for the community and they can influence the attitudes of their community members towards CCOs. If the leaders perceive CCOs negatively, then it is likely that the community will also reject all initiatives, however good they may be.

Extract them from a 2015 United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat) Report.

One wonders how many of the recommendations have actually been implemented, if at all.

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