Minister Halts Evictions of Bibanja Holders During Festival Season

The Minister of Lands, Housing and Urban Development, Judith Nabakooba has halted evictions of Bibanja holders by cunning landlords during this festive season and implored Resident District Commissioners (RDCs) to ensure the directive is respected.

In her December 22, 2022 communication, Nabakooba directs RDCs and District Police Commanders (DPCs) to ensure no evictions take place between December 23 and January 6, 2023. “As we move into the festive season, therefore, the government shall not entertain reports of land evictions, at a time when citizens are supposed to be at home celebrating the Christmas and new year season,” the communication reads in part.

She defended her directive by pointing out that many dishonest people often exploit the holiday season to carry out land evictions, knowing very well that most government officials are out of the country and unable to step in to safeguard legitimate and authorized occupants. Nabakooba says that it is also forbidden for landlords to coerce tenants into land-sharing agreements that could result in eviction threats. 

She, however, made it clear that where a landlord decides to sell the property to someone other than the current inhabitants over the holiday season, they shall be told that the rights of the current renters are unaffected in any way.

“There should be no evictions of lawful and Bonafide Occupants…The old Landlord must introduce the new Landlord to the occupants so that they know who their new Landlord is for purposes of paying Busuulu and seeking their consent to acquire Certificates of Occupancy,” she added.

While those who are currently facing eviction may be delighted to hear the declaration, some people may view this as taking a populist stance on the matter. For instance, a number of attorneys have noted that this is just one way that government officials are meddling with the judicial system and the rule of law in general.

Henry Byansi, a Lawyer notes that even though he disagrees with such directions, evictions should not go on because the courts are now on leave. “The Minister does not have any power to interfere with such processes on condition that there is an already issued court order. That would be interfering with the independence of the judiciary. However, evictions and executions cannot be conducted during this period since we are on court vacation, which runs from 22nd December to 7th January every year,” said Byansi.

But, he maintained that Once the eviction is under court supervision, then the Minister doesn’t have any power to interfere with such a process. “Those processes can only be challenged through appeal, review, or revision depending on the nature of the grievance,” he said. Available information shows that land evictions have raised public concern throughout the country, but are more pronounced in the regions of Buganda and Bunyoro.

Kiryandongo, Kitagwenda, Mityana, Mubende, Kassanda, Kyankwanzi, Nakaseke, Mukono, Mpigi, Lyantonde, Rakai, Kyotera, Gomba, Masaka, Wakiso, Kikuube, Buliisa, Masindi, Hoima, and Kasese are some of the most affected districts. According to Nabakooba, the Lands Ministry and Uganda Land Commission (ULC) will give priority in the coming year to ensuring that titles for tenanted land in Buganda and Bunyoro are issued.

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