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Uganda Pulls Constitutional Amendment Legislation to Allow Government to Seize Land

September 10, 2018

After many complaints from opposition and civil society leaders, the government of Uganda has formally withdrawn a bill which would have allowed it to acquire land from private owners – even without their approval.

Even if the compensation for the seizure of private land for infrastructure use is fair, it will still create major problems for many forced to give up their land -- if the Constitutional Amendment Bill proposed were to become law in Uganda.

The objective of the bill was to make it easier for the government to acquire needed land for critical country infrastructure development. As currently proposed, although the government would have had to compensate private owners for the acquisition of their land, there was a provision that would have allowed the government to take the land without private owner approval. It also allowed that, in the event of a dispute over how much the government paid for the land, the government could use the land even while its owner might pursue demands for higher compensation in the courts.

The government justified the bill as something it had to do for the good of the country. There are currently a variety of major infrastructure projects ongoing across Uganda for work on hydroelectric power and dams, road construction, and electrical transmission lines. According to senior officials in the country, the government often finds itself stuck in moving forward on these projects because of arguments over land use and acquisition, when needed.

The bill failed one time before in an earlier form, when it was introduced for the first time in parliament last year. The complaint then, just as now, is that the bill removes citizens’ right to own property.

The new bill is now tabled yet again. Uganda’s deputy attorney general said the government is going to get further advice on the issues raised connected with the bill.

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