For several decades, Uganda has been caught in an increasingly intense land crisis. A mix of factors including the historical land inequities bequeathed to the country by colonialism, the increasing global demand for huge chunks of land for agricultural investment to meet the ever-increasing global food needs and the commodification of land generally has fueled a lot of land conflicts in Uganda. Whilst some of the land in question has been a subject of forceful evictions, other parcels of land have changed hands between the original owners and those with purchasing power premised on reasons such as speculation and hoarding. Some of the targeted lands measure in thousands of hectares and hundreds of square miles. Such a state of affairs has resulted into a floating population in many parts of the country that is left landless.
Notably, Uganda currently has no limit on how much land one can accumulate. This is crucial, considering that the country is pursuing an ambitious development goal of transiting “…from a peasant to a Modern and Prosperous Country within 30 years conceptualized around strengthening factors of production such as land. The National Development Plan (NDP) III regards security of land access and use to be “an important and always necessary pre-condition for the expansion of production and diversification of economic opportunity”. In this regard, the regulation of land use and ownership should be one of importance to the government.
It is therefore important to have a discourse on access to adequate land as an economic resource for all persons in the country, particularly the poor and vulnerable if the goal of transiting from a peasant to a modern and prosperous country is to be realized. Furthermore, access to land is inextricably linked to the enjoyment of basic human rights such as the right to adequate food and nutrition, housing and an adequate standard of living.
It is on this premise that the Human Rights and Peace Centre (HURIPEC) sought to examine the relevance, feasibility and acceptability of introduction of a land ceiling as a panacea to the increasing loss of land from the majority into the hands of a few individuals. This study, supported under a project titled ‘Perspectives on Land Capping in Uganda’ (PLCU) builds on HURIPEC’s body of research on the country’s land problem by undertaking an academic enquiry into the challenges arising from unlimited private land holding and its consequences and manifestations such as forced evictions and landlessness. Land capping, or a land ceil essentially connotes the introduction of a cap on the size of land that an individual can acquire putting into account factors such as the total land mass of the country vis-à-vis the size of the population and the development objectives.
This study took us to several places across central and western Uganda where large parcels of land have been curved out mostly to foreign investors for commercial agriculture and mineral exploration. We spoke to key stakeholders and community members on the repercussions of land scale land acquisition and their impact on the livelihood and security of Ugandans. This report presents voices and concerns over unregulated land acquisition and its implications to the country’s peace, stability and economic development.
It is my hope that the emerging patterns and trends on land holding in Uganda highlighted herein and the resultant human rights implications will help to elevate the attention of the importance of legal regulation over land as a key asset for the majority of Ugandans and to provide strategic guidance to policy makers on the same as the country progresses to implement its plan on agro industrialization.
Human Rights and Peace Centre
School of Law