Uganda wants to forcefully take over private land and the citizens are furious

The Ugandan govt seeks to forcefully acquire private land under proposed law, a move that has ignited widespread anger.

The Ugandan government is looking to change its constitution so it can forcefully acquire private land for public projects; a move that has ignited widespread anger across the country.

Uganda expects to start pumping crude oil in 2020 and petroleum-related infrastructure, including an export pipeline, will require the public acquisition of private land.

Under the proposed constitutional amendment, if a private owner disputes the state valuation of their property, the government would be allowed to forcefully take over the land and proceed with its plans while an adjudication proceeds.

"Any investor who can make it in the long queue to State House (the president's residence) will then be given free land anywhere," says Nicholas Opiyo, a Kampala-based lawyer and human rights activist.

"The cronies of this regime, the financiers of this regime will then line up and just get free land, which is dangerous for citizens."

President Yoweri Museveni,'s spokesman, Don Wanyama, has however dismissed these claims saying that the law is not in way involving the President's personal interests.

"This law has nothing to do with President Museveni's personal interests ... Trying to personalize it is a cheap shot by activists," said Mr. Wanyama.

Current rules allow the government to take over private land only after prompt payment of "fair and adequate" compensation.

When private land is earmarked for public projects, a chief government valuer determines its worth, which the government then pays to its owner. If the value is disputed, the owner goes to court and the government cannot acquire the land until a resolution is reached.

The proposed constitutional amendment is currently under scrutiny by the Parliamentary committee.

Mr. Opiyo said President Museveni had always wanted full control over land resources in Uganda.

"It's Museveni's personal motive to have full and unfettered control to acquire and use land in any part of the country in any way he so wishes," he said.

Officials have argued that the amendment would deter speculators who rush to buy land in proposed locations for public projects to profit from inflated compensation.


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