Rights ac­tivists fear Ugan­dan plans to seize land

The Star Early Edition - - WORLD - CAJ News

KAM­PALA: Hu­man rights groups are con­cerned at con­sti­tu­tional amend­ments that pave the way for the Ugan­dan gov­ern­ment to seize land from pri­vate own­ers and farm­ers.

The ad­min­is­tra­tion of Pres­i­dent Yow­eri Mu­sev­eni ar­gues this would help avoid de­lays to its in­fra­struc­ture and in­vest­ment projects.

The de­lays could oc­cur when dis­putes arise dur­ing the process of com­pul­sory land ac­qui­si­tion.

The re­cent con­sti­tu­tional amend­ment pro­poses that to speed things up, the gov­ern­ment will take over the land, de­ter­mine its value and re­move any­one from the land.

Civil so­ci­ety or­gan­i­sa­tions crit­i­cised the move. “For most Ugan­dans, wholly de­pen­dent on their land for sur­vival, this would be a dis­as­ter,” said Maria Bur­nett, Hu­man Rights Watch di­rec­tor for East Africa.

She said the amend­ment meant Ugan­dans who could not af­ford lawyers to con­test the takeover of their land would be forced to ac­cept any money for their land – to feed their chil­dren in the short-term.

“And once they lose their land, they may not be able to feed those chil­dren for long,” said Bur­nett. She said if com­pul­sory ac­qui­si­tion was done poorly, it might leave peo­ple home­less and land­less, with no way of earn­ing a liveli­hood.

Uganda’s donors, in­clud­ing the World Bank, have been urged to de­nounce the con­sti­tu­tional amend­ment. “They should urge Uganda to en­sure that the ba­sic rights of Ugan­dans are re­spected,” Bur­nett said.

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