Rights activists fear Ugandan plans to seize land
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.