Kabale- President Museveni has embarked on a countrywide tour to push for the setting up of a land tribunal and change of the current land laws and also defuse what he called toxic misinformation by his political opponents.
Mr Museveni, who kicked off his nationwide radio campaigns with a talkshow on Voice of Kigezi in Kabale Town on Monday, said amending Article 26 of the 1995 Constitution is not intended to steal people’s land but to hasten government projects that have been stalling as a result of court cases arising from compensation disputes.
“What has brought me here is to remove toxins from the masses because some people have been misusing radios to tell lies. I want to begin with the lies on land acquisition for the construction of power and roads,” President Museveni said.
Speaking in Runyakore-Rukiga, Mr Museveni added: “Whereas government requires land on which public works such as railways, roads and electricity can be constructed, the land owners, including myself, refuse to give way, which is wrong.
In the making of the 1995 Constitution, NRM changed the past laws where land belonged to government and gave it to the people. A clause was put in place stating that in case government wants land for public works, it should get it after compensating the land owner.
And that is what it is. The current situation is paralysing [government projects] as some stubborn people contest the assessment for compensation done and then go to court and the case takes about five years; then the planned road projects stall.”
The proposal to amend Article 26 to allow government take over private land before compensation has met opposition from some members of the civil society, church leaders, MPs, ordinary people and opposition politicians. The critics argue that if land is acquired before compensation, the owner may not get proportionate payment from the government.
But Mr Museveni said there are many cases where government projects have stalled because of such disputes.
He cited the case of installing hydro-power exportation lines to Rwanda through Ntungamo District that delayed because of compensation issues.
Mr Museveni singled out one Mr Kahirwa of Ntungamo District, who rejected payment of Shs18 million per acre that the government was offering him, but instead demanded Shs200 million.
He said an electricity power project in Lira District also stalled for about three years because some people were asking for too much money as compensation.
“People have been going on radios and televisions telling lies that Museveni wants to steal your land. Now look at this beautiful road from Mbarara to Ntungamo; do I have any shares? Or have you heard that I am making money out of the Kabale-Kisoro Road?” Mr Museveni asked.
Mr Museveni also criticised media houses for giving a platform to people who “spread negative propaganda about government programmes and projects”. He asked government agencies to deal with such people.
The President also underscored the need for industrialisation, including construction of an iron ore factory in Muko Sub-county in Rubanda District, and irrigation for better agricultural harvests and tarmacking of roads.
“Because we want to solve the problem of paralysing planned government projects, we brought a proposal for the Land Amendment Bill where a tribunal shall be put in place to resolve any grievances locally without going to courts of law,” Mr Museveni said.
“Those saying that the existing law on land is enough are wrong because we have encountered several problems whereby some people demand too much money as compensation that ends up stalling planned government projects.
The Land Amendment Bill should be accepted because the draft has been improved by having a tribunal in place to locally handle disputed cases on the land price instead of going to court for arbitration that disadvantaged the some people that do not have money,” he added.