Uganda: Gertrude Njuba - New Law Must Stop Court-Aided Land Grabbing | Land Portal

By: Siraje Lubwama
Date: August 31st 2016
Source: AllAfrica.com / The Observer

Capt Gertrude Njuba, the head of the State House Land department, wants the proposed amendments to the Land Act to include strict provisions that make it extremely difficult for courts of law and land agents to aid land grabbing.

Through the amendments, government seeks to have unfettered access to private land to build public works without being slowed by compensation concerns. In a recent interview with The Observer in her office in Nakasero, Njuba welcomed the proposed amendment endorsed by the recent cabinet retreat in Kyankwanzi.

She said apart from the rampant forgery of land titles at the Uganda Land Commission, some Churches too have a tendency of grabbing peoples' land.

Among the proposed amendments to the Land Act, government seeks to take any private land strategically located for development projects without first compensating the owner.

"When land is grabbed mostly with the assistance of commission agents, some Church and government officials - when victims run to courts of law, they are sometimes frustrated and can't get justice because they are poor," Njuba said.

Some evictees are reportedly given peanuts in compensation and can't replace land taken from them. Njuba said that after many people complained to President Museveni, State House set up the land department in 2003 initially to help mistreated bibanja (untitled land) holders. She added that when land title holders started complaining too, the president asked her department to intervene.

Njuba said her department has helped many people with land wrangles to reconcile through mediation. In a year, she said, State House registers between 450 to 500 complaints. Some, she said, are resolved by her staff and others are sent to courts.

"We have achieved this because officers in this department report to different offices. Whereas some report to the permanent secretary in the president's office and, to the State House controller, others report to the private principal secretary to the president," Njuba explained.

She said her department has helped some landlords know how to relate with squatters. Previously, she said, bibanja holders didn't know their rights. Njuba said that much as government wants unfettered access to private land, it should avoid taking people's land free of charge.

"In some countries like Tanzania, land belongs to the state, but our laws here are different. The bad thing here is that many people have used their positions in government to steal land, government must find means of sensitizing the population in their indigenous languages on the powers of landlords and their relationship with tenants," Njuba said.

In March 2013, the president set up another land committee to resettle illegally evicted people. The committee was headed by former junior Lands Minister Aidah Nantaba and included Wakiso Woman MP Rosemary Sseninde (now minister of state for education) and Deborah Asasira, from State House.

In addition, Museveni formed the Land Protection Squad headed by Major Jacob Asiimwe, whose role too is to protect people under threat of eviction. The police also have a land unit, which is supposed to handle land conflicts. In addition, some Resident District Commissioners also handle land issues, not forgetting the courts right from LC1 to Supreme Court.

Njuba is a former deputy minister for industry in the first NRM cabinet and a historical member of the National Resistance Council. She was the wife of former Kyadondo North MP Sam Njuba, also a former FDC vice chairman for Buganda.

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