Prince Kassim Nakibinge Kakungulu, an influential Muslim leader and Buganda kingdom royal, has added his weight to the growing opposition to the Constitution Amendment Bill 2017 on compulsory acquisition of private land for public works.
In a speech at his residence in Kibuli, Kampala, during the commemoration of 122 years since his grandfather Prince Nuhu Mbogo Kyabasinga returned from exile in Zanzibar, Nakibinge said though he is not expected to make political comments, land is too crucial for him to keep quiet.
“Where is that amendment coming from? Land is a crucial matter and because I am an interested party, I cannot keep my silence,” Nakibinge said.
Like other critics of the bill, Nakibinge is not swayed by the government’s argument that the amendment will facilitate quick implementation of its infrastructural development projects.
In the proposed amendment to Article 26, government seeks to gain possession of private land for public works without prior compensation. Government officials argue that this is necessary to avoid unnecessary delays of government projects by landowners who dispute government valuation.
However, Prince Nakibinge is not convinced by this argument. “Amending the constitution is within your [government’s] mandate but I have heard of so many transactions that have been executed in the past; didn’t we have a law? I have never heard of anything that failed because the law is weak,” Nakibinge said.
Nakibinge’s grandfather, Mbogo Kyabasinga, was forced into exile in Zanzibar in 1893 by Capt Frederick Lugard, the representative of the colonial government, following religious wars in Buganda in the 1880s.
Because of his strong influence among Baganda Muslims and the Buganda royal family, the colonial state eventually allowed him back on June 25, 1895. He was later to be allocated 24 square miles of land at the signing of the 1900 Buganda Agreement, an estate that is currently under Nakibinge’s direct control.
Most of this estate is prime land in Kibuli, Kawempe and Kyambogo in Kampala. Already, the Kibuli prince is embroiled in a disagreement with government over a piece of land occupied by Kyambogo University.
The land in question is wanted for the expansion of learning facilities at Nabisunsa Girls School, one of the education institutions run by the Young Men’s Muslim Association (YMMA), the registered trustees of all social service institutions under the Mbogo family.
Speaking on Sunday, July 30, Nakibinge hinted that he was not ready to lose more land. “Should the change in the law lead to the taking of my properties, I will mobilise the Muslims against you,” Nakibinge warned.
MPs Abdul-Latif Ssebaggala (Kawempe North), Muhammad Muwanga Kivumbi (Butambala), Ssemujju Ibrahim Nganda (Kira Municipality) Safia Nalule (PWD Central) and Syda Bbumba (Nakaseke North) were forced to stand and make public vows that they would vote against the amendment.
The bill’s critics fear that it is intended to defeat a provision of article 26(b)(i), which requires government to make prompt payment of fair and adequate compensation prior to taking possession or acquisition of private property.
The controversial legislation was tabled on July 13 by Deputy Attorney General Mwesigwa Rukutana who faced a torrid time defending it in parliament before it was referred to the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs committee.
Supreme Mufti Sheikh Siliman Kasule Ndirangwa also urged MPs to tread carefully when handling the proposal.
“Land is not an issue to play about with and we expect MPs to be extra careful when handling the amendment. The [current] law provides for prompt payment of the landowner before land is taken over by government; that is the only just and fair way of handling such a transaction,” Ndirangwa said.
Once the amendment is passed, government will, in case of a dispute over land valuation, deposit the compensation award in court and proceed with the project.
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