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Uganda (2019)

The Uganda National Land Policy 2013

This new land policy address the contemporary land issue and conflicts facing the country. The vision of the policy is: ‘Sustainable and optimal use of land and land-based resources for transformation of Ugandan society and the economy’ while the goal of the policy is: ‘to ensure efficient equitable and sustainable utilisation and management of Uganda’s land and land-based resources for poverty reduction, wealth creation and overall socio-economic development’. 


Section 4.16 of the Policy (86) states that government shall put in place measures to mitigate the negative impacts of investment on land to deliver equitable and sustainable development. While part 90 of the same section positions government to protect land rights, including rights of citizens in the face of investments with measures for clear procedures and standards for local consultation, mechanisms for appeal and arbitration, and facilitate access to land by vulnerable groups in the face of investments. 


Section 4.18 (93) of the Policy recognises the inability of the majority of Ugandans to afford the cost of formally securing land rights and therefore government will put in place a framework that would ensure that land rights help by all Ugandans are fully and effectively respected. 


As regards to land rights of ethnic minorities, the Policy states that: 

Government shall, in its use and management of natural resources, recognize and protect the right to ancestral lands of ethnic minority groups;

Government shall pay prompt, adequate and fair compensation to ethnic minority groups that are displaced from their ancestral land by government action.

To redress the rights of ethnic minorities in natural habitats, Government will take measures to establish regulations by Statutory Instrument to:

  1. recognize land tenure rights of minorities in ancestral lands;

  2. document and protect such de facto occupation rights against illegal evictions or misplacements; 

  3. consider land swapping or compensation or resettlement in the event of expropriation of’

  4. ancestral land of minorities for preservation or conservation purposes;

  5. detail terms and conditions for displacement of minorities from their ancestral lands in the

  6. interest of conservation or natural resources extraction;

i. pay compensation to those ethnic minorities that have in the past been driven off their ancestral lands for preservation or conservation purposes;

ii. deliberate and specify benefit-sharing measures to ensure that minority groups resources on their ancestral lands rendered to extractive or other industry;

iii. recognize the vital role of natural resources and habitats in the livelihood of minority the gazettement or de-gazettement of conservation and protected areas.


Ugandan Laws:

The legal context for the application of this involuntary land acquisition will depend the project components mainly be governed by the Constitution of Uganda 1995 and the Land Act of 1998 (as amended in 2004) and to some extent the Land Acquisition Act 1965, the Water Act and Education Act. The key policy is the National Land Policy 2011. 


The Constitution of the Republic of Uganda, 1995

Land in Uganda belongs to the citizens of Uganda and is vested in them in accordance with  four land tenure systems: Customary, Freehold, mailo and Leasehold. However, the government or a local government may acquire land from individual owners in the public interest. To this end, compulsory deprivation of property or an interest in or right over property of any description can only be made under a law which makes provision for prompt payment of fair and adequate compensation prior to the taking possession or acquisition of the property, and a right of access to a court of law by any person who has an interest or right over the property. 


Land Act Cap 227, 1998

This law regulates the tenure, ownership and management of land in Uganda. The Act establishes a number of land administration institutions, notably District Land Boards, District Land Office, Land Tribunals and Land Committees. The Land Act makes further provisions for government or local government to acquire land compulsorily as long as this is done after the APs have been adequately compensated (the procedure for this acquisition is set out in the Land Acquisition). 


Land Acquisition Act Cap 226, 1965

Compulsory acquisition of land is defined as the intervention of Government, including local government, to acquire land in the national interest, such as public use, interest of defence, public safety, public order, public morality and public health. There is no provision for compulsory acquisition of land by individuals or corporate bodies in the name of public interest and is thus the explicit prerogative of the state. The Act stipulates that landowners affected by compulsory acquisition must be adequately compensated for their land, developments thereon, and loss of livelihood prior to the resettlement or relocation. The procedures for compulsory acquisition are also details in the Act. 


Property and Land Rights in Uganda

The Constitution of Uganda, 1995 vests all land directly in the Citizens of Uganda, and states that every person in Uganda has the right to own property. The Constitution also sets the standard for any form of compensation in Uganda and provides for prompt payment of fair and adequate compensation prior to the taking possession or acquisition of the land/property. Ugandan law recognises four district land tenure systems: Freehold, customary, Leasehold and Mailo tenure. 


Acquisition, Valuation of Land and other Assets

Both the Constitution, 1995 and the Land Act Cap 227 gives the government and local governments’ power to compulsorily acquire land. The Constitution states that ‘no person shall be compulsorily deprived of property or any interest in or any right over property of any interests in or any right over property of any description except’ if the taking of the land is necessary ‘for public use or in the interest of defence, public safety, public order, public morality or public health’. 



Section 77 of the Land Act giver valuation principles for compensation; i.e. crops are compensated at rates set by the District Land Boards; the basis of compensation for land is open market value. The value of buildings is to be taken at open market value for urban areas and depreciated replacement cost in the rural areas. In addition, a 15% or 30% disturbance allowance must be paid of six months or less notice is given to the owner. 


Dispute Resolution and Grievance Mechanisms

The Land Act Cap 227 states that land tribunals must be established at district level. It empowers the District Land Tribunals to determine disputes relating to amount of compensation to be paid for land acquired compulsorily. The affected person may appeal to a higher ordinary court. The Land Acquisition Act allows for any person to appeal to the High Court within 60 days of the award being made. All land disputes must be processed by the tribunals, before the case can be taken to the ordinary courts. The Act also states that traditional authority editors must retain their jurisdiction to deal with and settle land disputes. 


The Children’s Act Cap 59

This is an Act to reform and consolidate the law relating to children; to provide for the care, protection and maintenance of children; to provide for local authority support for children; to establish a family and children court; to make provision for children charged with offences and for other connected purposes 


In particular, Section 8 of this Act provides that no child shall be employed or engaged in any activity that may be harmful to his or her health, education or mental, physical or moral development. 


Uganda Land Commission:

The Uganda Land Commission holds and manages land in Uganda vested in or acquired by GoU and would be involved where such land is affected by projects. This applies to where land affects by the buffer zones and project sites. 


Comparison between land law in Uganda and WB OP4.12 

Although the Ugandan Constitution requires that prompts, fair and adequate compensation be paid prior to displacement, this is not on par with OP4.12, as there is no requirement that states that the government should provide alternative land or assist with resettlement. 


Additionally, it is unclear how to interpret ‘prompt, fair and adequate’ compensation. OP4.12 states that displaced persons should be compensated at full replacement cost. Ugandan law does not make any specific accommodation for squatters or illegal settlers, and reimbursement is based on legal occupancy. There is also no provision in the law that the state should attempt to minimise involuntary resettlement. 


Furthermore, the GoU has recently prepared the final National Land Policy (2013) aimed at consolidating a number of scattered policies, which exist on various aspects of the land acquisition, but are diverse, sectoral and inconclusive in many respects. Uganda has never had a clearly defined and/or consolidated National Land Policy since the advent of colonialism in the nineteenth century. Post-independence and recent attempts to settle the land question by the Land Reform Decree 1975, the 1995 Constitution of Uganda, and the Land Act 1998 failed to deal with the fundamental issues in land tenure due to absence of clear policy principles to inform the enactment of legislation that offers politically and socially acceptable and technically feasible solutions. The key policy issues to touch on:

  • historical injustices and colonial legacies 

  • contemporary issues mainly arising from such legacies

  • land use management issues 

Key gaps with main IFI requirements:

1. Land tenants: Ugandan law does not compensate those without legal right or claim to the land

2. Squatters: no compensation with out legal right or claim to the land

3. Owners of non-permanent buildings such as kiosks, butchery shops, wooden shacks for food vendors: WB doesn't provide for disturbance allowance and Ugandan law does not provide for resettlement assistance

4.  Perennial crops: WB doesn't allow for disturbance allowance

5. Loss of income: Ugandan legislation does not provide for restoration of livelihoods

6. Vulnerable groups: law is not specific to describe vulnerability in the context of resettlement and land acquisition 

7. Relocation and resettlement: law doesn't require minimisation of land acquisition to avoid impacts

8. Livelihood restoration and assistance: no explicit provisions for livelihoods assistance

9. Consultation and disclosure: no explicit provisions for consultation and disclosure but there are guidelines issued by separate ministries. The LAA has a provision for an enquiry whereby the PAP can make a formal written claim and the assessment officer is obliged to conduct a hearing before making his award. 

10. Calculation of compensation and valuation: There is no equivalent provisions on relocation assistance, transitional support or the provision of civic infrastructure. The basis of compensation assessment is not stated in the LAA, although the constitution provides for 'prompt, fair and adequate' compensation (article 26). The value of customary land shall be the open market value of the unimproved land. Value of the buildings shall be at open market value for urban areas and depreciated replacement cost for rural areas. The crops and buildings of non-permanent nature are compensated at rates set by District Land Boards. 

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