Unjust Land systems and weak dispute resolution mechanism are driving inequality.

Friday, November 29, 2019

Unjust Land systems and weak dispute resolution mechanisms are driving inequality in the country according to a new land report launched today by Oxfam. Titled Locked out, the land and inequality report explores the ways in which unjust land systems drive inequality making the poor poorer while the rich get richer.

Poor people, the vulnerable, young people and those who live in rural areas have been locked out from enjoying their land rights. At 80 percent, rural areas experience more poverty rates than urban areas whose poverty rate is 30 percent. Most agriculture also happens to take place in rural areas carried out mostly by women who own only 7 percent of the land. What this means is that the more you depend on land, the more likely you are to be poor.

This inequality is not just affecting individuals but, in most instances, entire communities and regions are left behind. In places where there is land or other conflict, people are likely to be poorer and negatively affected by big projects the report further reveals. For instance, Northern Uganda, because of its history of conflict, has the slowest growth rates at 0.8 percent. Growth rates are highest in western region at 4.47 percent 6 times faster than the northern region.

These inequalities have not been solved by attempts at legal and policy reform the reports says. In fact, the most important policy reforms, with the potential to change the terrain on land inequality and deliver more access, ownership and control to women and young people have failed to see the light of day. For instance, amendment of the Succession Act so that it is in line with the Constitutional Court decision that struck out parts of the Act for being unconstitutional is yet to happen- ten years after the decision.

This report comes at a time when the Country for the past years has been grappling with increased land disputes like the Lusanja dispute in Wakiso District, Apaa land dispute in Amuru and other land disputes in the oil rich Albertine Graben region and several other places that have left hundreds landless.

This scourge of land disputes according to the report stem from post-colonial land laws and policies that have failed to effectively deal with perpetual land questions such as the rights of unregistered and unregistered land holders, women’s land rights and ambiguous and multiple systems of land tenure. Land inequality is further persistent because of lack of access to justice for the growing land dispute cases.

Speaking at the launch, Oxfam’s acting Country Director, Jane Ocaya Irama said that solutions to land inequality lie in better laws and policies and in uprooting traditional development paradigms that celebrate development without looking at the actual impact on people. She added that rural women, small holder farmers, and young people experience the most extreme forms of poverty and inequality, which is worse if they have experienced conflict or if they do not receive a proper education. Poor households are further affected by population growth which subdivides the ancestral land as well as the effects of climate change which is leaving their land unproductive.

“The people who rely most on land and produce most of our food are living from hand to mouth, unable to own or control the land or the proceeds from it. It is even worse for women who have never owned land and do not hope to- even as the laws formally seem to suggest that any one, regardless of gender, can own land. Poor people are further pushed out of their land by big commercial enterprises, said Ocaya adding that Government’s push for commercialization, though well-meaning, risks locking out small holders even more if the question of land is not looked into.

solutions for breaking injustice regarding ownership, access and control of land lies in an extensive legal reform that understands the historical genesis of these inequalities and seeks to address them. Among the recommendations, Oxfam asks Government to provide financial and human resources to strengthen the ability of institutions to address legal and regulatory provisions that protect the rights and interests of vulnerable groups such as women, youth and the poor in general and increase the capacity of local institutions and dispute resolutions mechanisms to be more effective in the prevention of conflicts as well as enhancing security of tenure.

Oxfam further calls for specific interventions to resolve the current injustices against women, who dominate land-based production processes and are also a big part of the population at the bottom of the pyramid. The government should hasten to enact laws and regulations that provide for women ownership of land including succession in the event of death of a spouse.

“We hope that the land and inequality report causes us to reflect on land injustice that is prevalent in our country and to know that injustice to one of us is injustice to all of us. If we have to achieve inclusive growth and sustainable development, we need to review and reform unfair land laws and policies. said Ocaya.