Word on the Street: Government Redistribution of Land

Word on the Street: Government Redistribution of Land

What is your opinion?

By John Isingoma
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First published: August 25, 2006

For the last five months or so, the government has been giving out prime pieces of land in Kampala and neighboring areas to investors.

It started with the give away of land in Nakasero formerly housing Uganda Broadcasting Corporation TV and the land of Shimoni Demonstration Primary School and Teachers College. This land was given to investors who are set to build multi-million hotels, partly in preparation for the Common Wealth Heads Of Government Meeting (CHOGM) slated for November 20th to 26th 2007 in Uganda.

As some sections of the public were still complaining about giving away this land, there were reports that President Yoweri Museveni's government were planning to give land currently occupied by Luzira Prison, Nsambya Police Barracks, among others to investors who requested to put up modern housing estates. Of recent, the give away of part of Mabira forest to Mehta to expand their sugar plantation has generated a lot public concern. But President Museveni has vowed to give away more land to investors if he is convinced about the benefits accruing from such land.

Museveni said on Friday that giving land to investors will improve the Ugandan economy and provide jobs to many Ugandans and put the land to more adequate use. The president's stand has however been received with mixed feelings from Ugandans, with some accusing him of selling the country while others are praising him for his foresightedness.

Ultimate Media's John Isingoma interviewed a cross section of people in Kampala about the President's giving away of land to investors. Below are their views.

Grace Kibuka, 28, Researcher:
"If the president is following legal procedures while distributing the land, I think it is okay because most of this land has been underutilized. However, for purposes of environmental conservation, the president should consult NEMA(National Environment Management Authority) and the National Forest Authority to understand the ecosystem of certain pieces of land before it is given away. A case in point here is the Mabira forest, which the president is about to give away. So, to me I would look at professionalism, consultation and planned development rather than the president using authority to do whatever he wishes."

Neo Semanda, 21, photocopier attendant:
"It is not a bad idea for the president to distribute land in Kampala for development purposes as long as he weighs the advantages and disadvantages. If there are more advantages then he is right to give the land for better development. For example, look at the problem of electricity in the country. They say it's due to lake Victoria drying up. But you hear the president is planning to give part of Mabira forest, yet forests are very important in rainfall formation, which could be a solution in the electricity crisis. Am confused at whether sugar canes are more beneficial than electricity."

Disillusioned: Parents and pupils of Shimoni march to Parliament
Disillusioned: Parents and pupils of Shimoni march to Parliament.
Shimoni Pupils Petition Speaker

Muzamil Kwebiha, teacher:
"First of all I don't think the president has misallocated land. What he has done is giving it to the big investors who are going to develop the land and even create jobs. Take the example of Shimoni School, in exchange for a five star hotel. It is definitely a good deal and I salute the president. Besides he has not thrown Shimon to the street but relocated and built others structures in Kololo. Development comes with some changes, which the people should bear with."

Tina "Tana", tea woman in Kampala:
"Land distribution for development is no problem. But the president is giving the land to foreigners. The foreigners are going to give the created jobs to their fellow foreigners and Ugandans will lose out. Me am suggesting that the president should give the land to potential Ugandan investors. On Shimoni land, the president by giving away the school, shows that he does not care about education anymore. For Mabira forest, am opposed to the president because cutting it down for sugar cane growing will destroy the environment of the country."

Fred Isingoma, Urban planner:
"The president is right when he says some land in Kampala has been unproductive. For example land where UTV was located was underutilized and by replacing it with a hotel of international stature is good for Uganda. However, for a school like Shimoni, it's hard to tell in the short run. But since the school has been given another piece of land and the government is going to construct new structures, let us hope it is a good idea. I don't agree with the president on Mabira forest though. Cutting that forest is going to come with worse affects than the benefits from the sugar canes due to the disruptions in the ecosystem."

Mabira Forest
Mabira Forest.
Image Source: www.aviceda.org

Jimmy Naika, university student:
"Land distribution to investors is not bad. But the way president Museveni does it is not right because he is giving land to foreigners who are going to rob this country. I would rather he gives the land to Ugandans who have money to put up the same investments. The fact is he is distributing land exclusively to foreigners. It is likely that he is the one behind these people. In the Shimoni case the president contradicts himself. He says he wants UPE(Universal Primary Education) to succeed and yet he is displacing good schools, which are affordable even by the poor to locations where only the rich can afford transporting their children.

William Bidayo, university student:
"Distributing land to investors in Uganda is not fair at all because it is not going to benefit the local people. The problem is that when foreigners come in Uganda they come with their people and they are the ones who do the jobs created by such investments. Then the government starts boasting of creating jobs when the Ugandans are suffering on the streets without jobs. I therefore urge the government to put in laws regulating the number of people the foreigner investors employ in their businesses."

Sarah Kyamagero, accountant:
"If the president is distributing land for investment to increase the national revenue collection, then it is very okay. I will take the example of Shimon land it was not bringing in good revenue, if any, so it is better for it to get shifted to create space for an investment that will bring revenue to the country."

By John Isingoma
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First published: August 25, 2006
To learn more about Ultimate Media Consult go to www.ultimatemediaconsult.com.

John Isingoma is a member of Ultimate Media Consult (U) Ltd. A social scientist by training, Isingoma is the Executive Secretary at Ultimate Media Consult (U) Ltd and after years training and practice in the media has become a dedicated writer and researcher.