HomeSocialWomen launch a campaign to fight land grabbers.

Women launch a campaign to fight land grabbers.

Joshua Nahamya

05 July 2024

A section of Legal Women under their Umbrella Friends of Women Initiative (FROWI), has released a survey explaining the causes of land grabbing in Uganda.

During a press briefing at Lake View Hotel in Mbarara, women activists under FROWI and partner organizations launched a campaign that will mobilize citizens across Uganda to “say no to land grabbing, say no to forceful land evictions and say no to land conflicts in their communities”.

According to Sarah Kobusingye, legal officer at the Women of Courage network (WOCN), the national campaign intends to empower the citizens, especially women, to defend their land rights successfully.

Kobusingye said that according to their survey, the most targeted land is customary land grabbed by high-profile government officials and private investors who take advantage of ignorant and poor citizens, mainly the widows to defraud their land.

“We have established that investors are the people that have been involved in land grabbing. And we intend to bring on board all stakeholders to make sure that we curb this vice.” She said

Kobusingye also alleged that sometimes the victims fail to get fair justice for reasons that there is connivance between the land grabbers, security operatives like police, and the army including the judicial officers who do not follow the law while administering justice and settling land cases.

“Land grabbing is coming from private and government investors. They mostly target the customary landholders because they are aware that most of the land owners have not taken a step to process the freehold titles” She said

Bonny Beinomugisha (L) and Sarah Kobusingye (R), all legal officers under FROWI fighting land grabbing in Uganda. Joshua Nahamya

Kobusingye added that there is little awareness of land sector institutions and procedures of which the rich people take advantage of the ignorance of landowners to grab their land.

“Our law says that whoever has a title is the owner of the land and they have it against the whole world. So some people target the customary landowners to grab their land a prerequisite of not knowing the law leaving people landless” She said

Kobusingye said that land matters get concluded through the court systems which poor people cannot afford to fund thus giving a chance to the land grabbers.

“Land grabbers are targeting poor people because they know there is a court process of proving the fault which comes with a cost that poor land owners cannot afford to put in to recover their land back. This is a reason why we are coming in as FROWI to help such categories of people” Kobusingye said

She also stressed that the weak administration systems in Uganda have also increased land grabbers thus warning the concerned stakeholders to take charge.

“To the authorities some of which these women have run to like the land commissions, land boards, the ministry of lands for help, have disappointed them. You find that some stakeholders in the land system are the very land grabbers meaning that they cannot help which is very unfortunate” Kobusingye said

Also, the traditional cultural practices have fostered land grabbing whereby some widows are being chased from their land whenever their husbands die, she noted.

“Our constitution gives the right of all Ugandans including special interest groups like women, children, and PWDs to own land but according to our findings, some people take advantage of displacing women from their land especially when the husbands die whether there is a will or not but relatives tend to chase them from their homes,” Kobusingye said

She added that as the population grows, land tends to be scarce thus land getting exposed to mafias and grabbers.

“The more the population is increasing, the more the land becomes scarce and the more encroachments registered both public and on private land in the country which has left some people homeless,” Kobusingye said

Bonny Beinomugisha, legal officer of FROWI said that land grabbing has castigated food insecurity in the country which the government should come out to address.

“From our findings, we have established that the food insecurity is as a result of people being deprived of their land thus calling upon to the concerned stakeholders and authorities to intervene because more than 80% of the rural population depend on land for agriculture, food and commercial business yet they are the very people that have been faced with land evictions and land grabbing” Beinomugisha explained

She however warned people who have encroached on the wetlands to distance themselves from the human rights defenders in seeking justice after NEMA evictions.

“Whoever comes to equity should come with clean hands. When you are seeking justice, don’t come when you are wrong. If you know that you encroached a wetland or NEMA evicted you from the wetland, there are certain steps that NEMA should follow to compensate you. Or if the government decides to take your land for any development they have to compensate you but the moment you encroach don’t come for justice,” Beinomugisha noted

“We are not court and we are not judges. That is why we are saying that whoever will be in the wrong, the law will catch up with him. And NEMA goes by the law so we cannot interfere or act contrary to the NEMA Act but we can see how to help each other to get the right. For example we shall not encourage people to protest but we shall sensitise them on awareness.” She explained

One of the reasons why FROWI has come on board is to make sure that we work with the concerned stakeholders in the land system in Uganda to make sure that the right processes are taken and right procedures are followed and all the land disputes are settled, Beinomugisha said.

Friends of Women Initiative is a non-government organization that calls upon all actors in Government, private sectors, and civil society to join FROWI as it implements a land rights information campaign aimed at making people more aware of their rights under the law where several stakeholders in Uganda have been calling for such a campaign.

“land has been grabbed everywhere and it has been our concern as FLOWI to call upon other stakeholders, the government, civil societies, police and the army to make sure that we come together and help these women that are facing land evictions to get justice and land grabbers be brought to book,” Beinomugisha explained

“People are calling us, they are rendered homeless and others settled in makeshift structures especially women, which are why we have come out to make a public awareness to support such categories of people that have been displaced.” She added

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