Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) have asked parliament to reject the amendment of Article 26 of the Constitution which seeks to give government absolute power to acquire land for development without first compensating the owners.
The CSOs say the proposed Constitution Amendment Bill which was tabled before parliament last year threatens people’s right to land, which is a fundamental source of livelihood on which 80 percent of Ugandans derive sustenance.
Speaking to journalists at the Uganda Land Alliance office in Ntinda on Wednesday, Ms Stella Lutalo, a CSO representative, said if article 26 is amended, people’s land rights shall be taken away and will leave the already poor and vulnerable in a worse condition.
“A poor and disempowered population will not enjoy the development that government displaced them for. What is a road when you have no food to eat or transport to the market?” Ms Lutalo wondered.
The Constitution Amendment Bill 2017, which is before Parliament, seeks to amend Article 26 of the Constitution to allow government “compulsory acquisition” of private land for national projects and deposit in court the compensation money it deems appropriate regardless of whether the owner consents to it or not.
The aggrieved owner may then challenge the compensation valuation in court as government proceeds with its project pending disposal of the case.
Article 26 states: (1) Every person has a right to own property either individually or in association with others.
(2) No person shall be compulsorily deprived of property or any interest in or right over property of any description except where the following conditions are satisfied:
(a) The taking of possession or acquisition is necessary for public use or in the interest of defence, public safety, public order, public morality or public health;
(b) The compulsory taking of possession or acquisition of property is made under a law which makes provision for prompt payment of fair and adequate compensation, prior to the taking of possession or acquisition of the property.
The CSOs say the amendment would take away the requirement of prompt and prior compensation and enable government acquire land even before the owners have received payment.
Anna Adeke, National Female Youth MP, said there appears to be indefinite silence on the discussion on amendment of article 26 but observed that the matter could be reintroduced any time.
“I am aware of platforms that MPs use and I am certain that CSOs will continue the discussion and invite more MPs to speak out loud on it,” Ms Adeke said.
“If government is not saying anything about this, the government should know we are not going to support them if they ever think of re- introducing it,” she added.