President Museveni Tasked Justice Catherine Bamugemereire With Uganda’s Toughest Assignment? 100 years Of the Land Question.
On 8th December 2016, President Yoweri Museveni appointed a Judicial Commission of Inquiry into Land Matters in Uganda.
Hon Justice Catherine Bamugemereire , Judge of Court of Appeal/Constitutional Court was appointed to lead the 7 member commission. The Land Probe Commission is commonly known as the Justice Bamugemereire Commission whose hearings are open to the public and media covers it well.
President Yoweri Museveni said on 21st Febuary 2017, Justice Catherine Bamugemereire will head the commission of inquiry that I appointed following numerous land related complaints from Wanaichi(Citizens).
On 23rd May 2017, six months after being appointed is when the land probe commission started its work based at the Archive Center based in Wandegeya, Kampala City.
Ugandans have been transfixed by the testimonies to the Justice Catherine Bamugemereire Commission detailing abuse, violence, injustice, death by all sorts of people. The big names are the businessmen and women, the land registrars, Land boards and in some cases relatives.
Different security agencies have been accused for aiding the lucrative land evictions that have left many people without shelter, land for cultivation.
The Most celebrated businessmen and women, politicians and those serving in the army use their credentials to develop contacts in the state and government to aid their acts.
The size and scope of the land question in Uganda is big because it spans many years 100 plus. Many names have been investigated after cooperating with the land probe commission while others have gone native with abuses.
Justice Catherine Bamugemereire has worked with good investigators that have discovered a lot of hidden dealings.
Recordings have surfaced in which she is being insulted by the Deputy Attorney General Mwesigwa Rukutana after failing to answer his role in recommending payments to a land transaction that was paid for already.
“What I heard in the Deputy Attorney’s audio is extremely offensive but that does not mean the land probe commission stopped its work.
Justice Catherine Bamugemereire has continued to seek the truth while examining evidence to figure out the truth and where not.”
President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni wanted to get an independent commission that will come up with a report that stops dominance on land issues by sections of society.
Museveni who enjoys massive support in the rural areas of Uganda has been locked in struggles with a few elites or opposition members that wanted to use the land question to their advantage.
The country is eagerly waiting for the historical report that will come before 2021 elections.
President Museveni in his country side tours is blunt about land evictions in Uganda.
“We’ve gone through a challenging number of years, 100 years to be exact, where we seemed to lose our way, where we deviated from the path that you traditionally would have expected us to traverse.” He mentions the Commission set up by Governor Mitchell in 1924-1927.
The report from Justice Catherine Bamugemereire Commission will be seen as to how far it will influence the 2021 election the public aspect of the hearings have been highly positive in terms of establishing a political culture of accountability and transparency, however disconcerting it might be for the land grabbers at the moment.
President Museveni signed a legal notice appointing a Judicial Commission , the first of its kind in Uganda’s history. He says it’s a historical commission.
Museveni instituted this commission of inquiry into the mismanagement of land in the country because public outcry on land was much.
Justice Catherine Bamugemereire has come out against courts that continue to issue eviction orders in a wanton manner yet the country could be plunged into a land crisis.
The journey of the land probe commission has not been easy as it has encountered court orders and judgments by Judicial officers which have led to the eviction of thousands of bibanja holders.
The Land grabbers and their agents are not remorseful at all. They are cruel in their methods of work.
The land probe commission has also become a darling of many , legal policy makers in Uganda and the International Community.
The array of issues pertaining to the land sector in Uganda are many.
Justice Catherine Bamugemereire while appearing on NTV’s the Spot said she is been tasked to inquire into “ the effectiveness of the land law and process of land acquisition, land administration, management and land registration.”
Other members of the commission include: Makerere University law don, Dr. Rose Nakayi, former Attorney General, Fred Ruhindi, Robert Ssebunya – a presidential advisor on Buganda affairs, Joyce Habasa and George Bagonza.
The commission of inquiry is assisted by Dr. Douglas Singiza Secretary Ebert Byenkya as lead counsel and John Bosco Rujagaata as co-lead counsel.
“This commission of inquiry offers us a big opportunity to clean up this sector and make lasting changes to a sector which is the bedrock of any country’s development,” Richard Todwong NRM Secertary General Said.
The Bamugemereire commission comes at a time of increased outcry over alleged fraud at the land registry which has seen all sorts of anomalies including issuance of multiple titles to a single piece of land.
Justice Catherine Bamugemereire has already handed in an interim report that covered the first 7 months. The commission has received thousands of complaints and listened to many within its means.
“This shows that the significance of land to the economy of Uganda, cannot be underestimated. Land relates to agriculture which is the bedrock of the Ugandan economy,” she said.
The Commission’s interim report recommends a number of actions for government to adopt. Some of which include restructuring and amalgamating various government agencies into two bodies: Land Authority and Conservation Agency.
The report also seeks to enlist government agencies for help to the Commission to implement the issues they have worked on.
President Museveni thanked the Commission for bringing him an assessment on land problems in Uganda and for coming up with recommendations for government to adapt.
“Land will now start being a real factor of production. This is a historical moment because there has been no other Commission since the 1924 Commission that was appointed by Governor Mitchell. The difference is that the other was simply a Commission of Inquiry but this is a Judicial Commission and if you commit perjury you can get 7 years in jail,” he said.
The President said that he would appoint senior Police Officers and lawyers to work with the Commission to implement what the probe team has been working on. He added that government would discuss the recommendations in the report when the final report is submitted in May this year.
“The recommendations will come to Cabinet through a White Paper and the public will then be informed about the adaptations,” he said.