Uganda News

The law restoring traditional leaders’ property is unconstitutional.

When Kingdoms were disbanded in 1966, the 1967 Constitution entrusted the property of the Buganda Land Board (including other Kingdoms' Land Boards) and the District Land Boards to the Uganda Land Commission.

There is no legal foundation for the Traditional Rulers (Restitutions of Assets and Properties) Act, Cap 247. Claims by Kingdoms based on the stated Act are null and void.

All crown land was handed to the Controlling Authority in 1962, and it was kept as public land on behalf of the crown.

The Uganda Land Commission, the Buganda Land Board, boards of other Kingdoms, and District Land Boards were the controlling authority. As a result, the Buganda Land Board had jurisdiction over public land rather than the Kabaka’s private property.

When Kingdoms were disbanded in 1966, the 1967 Constitution entrusted the property of the Buganda Land Board (including other Kingdoms’ Land Boards) and the District Land Boards to the Uganda Land Commission.

The Buganda Land Board was only in operation for 5 years, during which time it controlled and maintained public land, including the 9,000 acres and official mailo, for the benefit of Buganda’s people, not the Kabaka personally.

When the NRM came to power, however, a number of cultural institutions, including the Buganda Cultural Institution (Kingdom), filed claims to reclaim property that had been allegedly taken under the 1967 Constitution.

To return the assets, the government swiftly adopted the Traditional Rulers (Restitution of Assets and Properties) Act, Cap. 247.

S. 2(4) stated, for the avoidance of dispute, that in the instance of Buganda, the properties were to be identified in the schedule and vested in the Kabaka of Buganda in the same estate or interest as the Uganda Land Commission.

The Bulaange, the Lubiri at Mengo; the Butikiro; the Buganda Court Building; Kabaka’s official 350 square miles of land; Namasole’s ten square miles of land; Banalinya’s land; Kabaka’s Lake; Former Omulamuzi and Omuwanika’s official residences of Mengo; Former Omulamuzi and Omuwanika’s official residences of Mengo; Former Omulamuzi and Omuwanika’ All Bassekabaka’s Tombs; Buganda Works Building at Kakeeka; Basiima Home; Nalinya’s house at Lubaga; Land next to Lubiri on which three Buganda Ministerial residences used to stand; All Bassekabaka’s Tombs; Buganda Works Building at Kakeeka; Basiima House; Nalinya’s house at Lubaga

There was no legal description given to any of the properties listed in the schedule. It was impossible to tell if the estates belonged to the Traditional Rulers, people, or the government based on any Title Deed. It was guesswork, and because of the uncertainty, it was unenforceable.

The Act’s unconstitutionality is further demonstrated by the fact that it did not discriminate between land owned by traditional rulers in their personal capacity and territory belonging to the kingdom and districts.

Article 108 (3) (5) of the 1967 Constitution is the applicable article (b). That provision gave the Uganda Land Commission “any land vested in the Land Board of a Kingdom or a District immediately before the beginning of this Constitution.”

It is obvious that not all of the land vested in the Uganda Land Commission by the 1967 Constitution belonged to the Traditional Rulers of Buganda Kingdom or any other Kingdom.

These were properties that belonged to a kingdom or a district as an administrative unit and never belonged to traditional rulers. They cannot be reclaimed since the properties were never theirs to begin with.

Other traditional rulers’ properties were not included in the Act, although it did state that the government would undertake discussions with them in order to restore any assets and properties that were agreed upon.

The discussions would also be extended to the Kabaka of Buganda in relation to any asset or property not included in the Act’s schedule.

The Buganda Kingdom case was self-evident. The Land Law on June 15, 1908, established two tenancies: an individual tenancy known as “Mailo” was established under Section 2. A tenancy known as “Official mailo” was formed under section 5 and defined as “land that a Chieftainship shall own for the period he shall hold the chieftainship.”

The official mailo was to be passed down with the office, and only the office holders were allowed to use it.

The Uganda Land Commission was given administrative properties under the Land Boards of a Kingdom (e.g. Buganda) or a District under Article 108 (5) (b) of the 1967 Constitution.

As a result, traditional rulers’ land was never seized under the 1967 Constitution.

The mailo land tenure under which the Traditional Rulers owned property was retained under article 126 (1) of the 1967 Constitution.

Traditional rulers still have access to their estates because to the mailo system, which was reinstated by the 1995 Constitution. In Buganda, this is either the Late Kabaka Daudi Chwa’s estate or Muteesa Estates Ltd.

The Traditional Rulers (Restitutions of Assets and Properties) Act, Cap 247, is unconstitutional and irrelevant. All Memorandums of Understanding with any Kingdom claiming under the aforementioned Act are null and void.

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