Government withdraws Land Amendment Bill

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By Nelson Wesonga & Solomon Arinaitwe

Kampala. The government has withdrawn the Constitution Amendment Bill No. 2 of 2017, which sought to give it (government) absolute power to acquire land for development without first compensating the owners.
The Constitution Amendment Bill was tabled before Parliament last year but it had since stoked controversy with concerns that if passed into law, it would people’s right to land, which is a fundamental source of livelihood on which 80percent Ugandans derive sustenance.

Explaining the government new development, Mr Mwesigwa Rukutana, the Deputy Attorney–General, said the government needs to carry out further consultations.
“We are the sponsors of this Constitution Amendment Bill. However, subsequent to presenting it for the first reading, government discovered that the Bill required extensive consultations,” Mr Rukutana said during plenary yesterday.
“For the reasons I have given, I beg to move that this Bill be withdrawn pending further consultations,” he added.
The Deputy Speaker of Parliament, Mr Jacob Oulanyah, said: “The Bill is accordingly withdrawn from Parliament.[When] it is ready, it will be brought back by the Executive.”

The Prime Minister, Rukahana Rugunda, among others, seconded the motion.
Mr Rukutana said the Bill touches the livelihoods of all Ugandans.
The withdrawal of the Bill comes on the heels of an August 2018 report by the House Committee on Legal and Parliamentary Affairs, which recommended that it be rejected.

Challenges
The committee argued that if such a Bill is enacted into law, it would have legal and practical challenges.
That, it added, would affect the implementation of its provisions. “The Bill may be challenged for being unconstitutional. It is important to note that Article 2 of the Constitution provides that the Constitution is the supreme law of Uganda and it shall have binding force on all authorities and persons through Uganda,” the report says.
“The same provision requires that if any law or any custom is inconsistent with any of the provisions of the Constitution, the Constitution shall prevail and that all, to the extent of the inconsistency is void. It is now settled that a matter is unconstitutional when it infringes, directly or indirectly on any of the provisions of the Constitution.”

Article 26 (1) of the Constitution provides that every person has a right to own property either individually or in association with others.
The committee also referred to case law, among other cases, the Uganda National Roads Authority v. Irumba Asumani & Peter Magelah one, which barred the central and the local governments from taking possession of private land without compensation.
Meanwhile, a Member of Parliament (MP) on the understanding that they would not be quoted, said the Bill will not sail through Parliament.

“It won’t see the light of the day,” the MP said. “We are annoyed; we can’t even look at it, nothing. You can’t be a fool twice. You see these people are quiet but they are annoyed. When he [President Museveni] has issues, he needs you. Now people [MPs are aware].”
The MP voted in support of lowering from 35 to 18 years and the lifting of the 75 years old upper cap for presidential candidates. Like many other MPs who supported the above, it was on the premise that their term would be extended by two years.

Recommendation

The withdrawal of the Bill comes on the heels of an August 2018 report by the House Committee on Legal and Parliamentary Affairs, which recommended that it be rejected.

Monitor.co.ug

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