Experience reveals two types of land disputes prevalent in postwar northern Uganda: cases that involve a legitimate cause of action and those that do not. 1 Since mediation and alternative forms of dispute resolution rely on parties’ willingness to negotiate in good faith, cases featuring ‘bad faith’ and land grabbing—where powerful parties intentionally exploit another person’s vulnerability in order to illegally 2 claim land— pose a serious challenge for local land dispute mediators. While bad faith and land grabbing each have the ability to unravel the ADR process, both are difficult to pinpoint since they are not immediately apparent. The purpose of this report is to distill the experiences of victims, offenders, and land dispute interveners to inform current practice and policy advocacy. This investigation—conducted from March to July 2013 in partnership with seven (7) member organizations of the Northern Uganda Land Platform—assumes that better understanding and coordination of ADR approaches will inspire more appropriate responses to the grave nature of these cases.
This pack contains a set of 6 papers analysing different aspects of land grabbing.
They are our contribution to what we hope will become a long National debate and fight
against a problem that can truly unite all Ugandans of good-will. This is because regardless of any ethnic, political or religious differences, we all believe in a Uganda where people can live on their land and in their communities in peace, security and harmony.
“Land grabbing” means deliberately and illegally taking away someone else’s land rights – e.g. taking their land, or refusing to give them their legal inheritance. After hearing many stories of land grabbing in seven districts, many common threads could be identified.
Customary land law, which Parliament has supported with full legal backing, takes very seriously the protection of everyone’s land rights, especially women and children. Despite this, the situation on the ground is alarming.
Ugandan Land Law is one of the best in Africa at protecting people’s rights. The law recognises private ownership, whether by individuals, families or communities, and the State cannot take away any land, without paying full compensation. And yet, despite everything, land grabbing in almost every village is rampant.
There are many reasons why land grabbing is so rampant and why the vulnerable so often face rights violations. Part of the problem is the lack of a land administration system for customary land.
Land rights in urban areas face many of the same threats as those in rural areas: the higher commercial value of urban land makes it more tempting, and many of the same processes by which the strong take from the weak also occur.
The first step for us all is to open our eyes and recognise the problem. The second step is for us to decide to play our part in ending it. Land grabbing is a cancer which is already starting to eat away at the society from its very core. Unless we act now to cut it out, it will spread its destruction to the very heart of Ugandan society. It may leave us unable to restore the society to health.