The new minister of Lands, Housing and Urban Development, Judith Nabakooba, has stopped all land evictions across the country during the ongoing lockdown which was imposed on June 18 to curb the spread of COVID19.
While addressing reporters on Sunday, Nabakooba said her ministry continues to receive reports of ongoing and impending land evictions in some parts of the country amid the lockdown, which she says it is illegal.
According to the Minister, the cases have mainly been reported in Nama in Mukono district, Mpigi, Nakasongola, Mubende, Kassanda, Buikwe, Wakiso, Sembabule, Hoima, Kagadi, Nebbi, Dokolo, Sheema and Mbale.
Nabakooba notes that the laws of Uganda are clear on the protection of both bonafide occupants and lawful occupants and that the security of occupancy of tenants or bibanja holders on registered land is protected by the 1995 Constitution and the Land Act.
She says it is not easy for land occupants to seek justice in courts of law during the lockdown since majority of the government systems including courts are not fully operational.
“It is wrong to evict people because the affected persons do not have anywhere to run too,” says the Minister.
“No tenant by occupancy should be evicted from their bibanja or the land they are in possession of during the COVID-19 lockdown period,” Nabakooba directs.
“Any forceful engagements and /or impending evictions should be reported to the nearest Police Station, Office of RDC and Courts of Law, to verify the authenticity of the orders and avert destruction of life and property,” she adds.
The Minister says that in cases where a Landlord chooses to sell land to a different person other than the tenants during this COVID-19 lockdown period, the rights of the existing tenants shall not be affected in any way.
In her new directives, the old Landlord shall take the responsibility of introducing the new Landlord to the tenants for purposes of paying him/her busuulu, after the COVID-19 lockdown period is lifted.
She thus directed the District Security Committees chaired by the respective Resident District Commissioners or Resident City Commissioners to assist lawful and bonafide occupants to continue possessing their bibanja during the COVID19 lockdown period.
She says the measures are interim and shall be implemented during the entire period of the COVID-19 lockdown to protect the rights and obligations of both the Landlords and tenants on registered land and customary land owners on unregistered land.
To fast track implementation of the new directives, Nabakooba said the Ministry of Lands will on August 1 launch a Toll-Free line that will be used by members of the public to report any cases of illegal evictions and threats.
She also said the Ministry of Lands’ Zonal Offices have been reopened to extend services near to the people.