Dr Besigye was reacting to last week’s resolution by ministers in Kyankwanzi to have government to compulsorily acquire land for development.
Kampala- Opposition leader Dr Kizza Besigye yesterday put government on notice that any attempts to “takeover” private land from Ugandans without compensation would be met with stiff resistance like the planned giveaway of Mabira Forest in 2007.
The warning follows a resolution during a joint Cabinet retreat at the National Leadership Institute in Kyankwanzi, to amend the Land Act to provide for compulsory acquisition of land for investment purposes. The law currently allows government to compulsorily acquire land for public works, but after compensation.
The former presidential candidate, who was addressing the media at his Kasangati home in Wakiso District, said the issue of land was the final move government was making on Ugandans after taking away everything that they own.
He said the takeover was being orchestrated on two fronts, including a project championed by the World Bank of accelerating land registration (titling of land) and the Kyankwanzi resolution. “These two threats, if we are not very careful, can lead to very serious breakdown of law and order in this country. Indeed, there are issues that can lead to war-these land questions. Our country should not take them lightly,” Dr Besigye said.
Lands minister Betty Amongi on Tuesday said government will soon bring to Parliament an amendment to the Land Act (1998), which will ease government takeover of private land for national development projects such as roads and other infrastructure.
The minister told our sister station NTV that the current law, which allows negotiation and compensation of the land owner before the project takes off, slows down government programmes.
Dr Besigye said the land which is most targeted is in the entire northern Uganda belt from Karamoja to the border of the Democratic Republic of Congo and parts of eastern Uganda.
The Opposition leader said he was confident Ugandans would rise to the occasion and defend their land like they did when government attempted to give away Mabira Forest.
Citing the example of Shimoni Demonstration School land in Kampala which has never been developed since the demolition of the school that previously occupied it in 2007, Dr Besigye said his warning should not be construed as anti-government.
“That is not to say that we don’t want development, no, but I have told you the problems, the weak systems, the corrupt regime, corrupt from top to bottom, the impunity, people who act without regard to law. There is absolutely no way we can give a blank cheque to such a government,” he said.
Dr Besigye said the NRM government was resorting to land to raise resources out of desperation and need to survive.
“Part of this extreme urgency to take over land in northern Uganda is to negotiate resources. It is part of the survival of the regime. It is now an urgent matter because they have been waiting for oil but it has kept running away from them,” he said.
Mr Edmond Owor, who heads the Uganda Land Alliance, a land rights campaign group in an interview, also doubted the intentions of government which two years ago faced resistance from civil society and the Opposition.
“We see disguised land grabbing, we know very well that land is expensive in the country, we know how speculators work, we know that government many times are high handed, many are going to hide under that law and take people’s land,” he said.
Responding to Dr Besigye’s warning, Information and ICT minister Frank Tumwebaze said the Opposition leader was worried that government was moving to deliver services to the people.
“I am not surprised by [Dr]Besigye. He is now more worried and vulnerable politically than before because of seeing and hearing government’s tough stance on issues of service delivery. He is becoming a boring subject and so has to desperately fight for space in the media.
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