Since its establishment in 2017 the Commission of Inquiry into Land Matters in Uganda chaired by Lady Justice Catherine Bamugemereire has definitely done a good job, exposing a lot of rot in the land acquisition, use and management systems in the country.
It is worth noting that this is the second time Justice Bamugemereire is heading such a knotty commission, the first having been the Commission of Inquiry into the operations of the Uganda National Roads Authority (UNRA), where she also did a commendable job, exposing profiteering rackets that had stolen trillions of taxpayers money!
In fact, Justice Bamugemereire stands out there as a purveyor of impartiality and an arbiter and judge of good discretion who has up to until recently, lifted high a seemingly-waning flag of the judiciary in the face of the citizens’ pessimism.
But just as she went about her work professionally, something snaky snaked its way up to her desk; a huge chunk of land (1.5 square miles) in Nakaseke part of which is officially and legally occupied by the army and other part that is reportedly occupied by illicit beneficiaries, who displaced the then sitting tenants.
With all due respect to the law, in matters of land adjudication, unless proven otherwise, the official (though not legal) government position is that ‘sitting tenants’ enjoy the privilege of being considered first in any event of transaction in respect to the land they occupy.
Indeed, when she was in the district, the Judge observed as much while she handed over the Nakaseke Senior Land Management Officer Geoffrey Tumusiime, to the police to assist with investigations.
“There were some applicants … and other 20 families that were sitting on the land meaning they were already occupying the land,” Justice Bamugemereire was quoted as saying.
She reportedly added: “Are all persons equal before the law? Were these people too insignificant to be considered or given audience by the Land Board?”
In all this the Judge has proven her resolve to stand firm in the face of land grabbers.
But that said, the Judge should also endeavor to take into consideration certain emotive issues of those appearing before her Commission.
The sight of the old Asian man in Mbale being harangued is sore and can blemish an otherwise impeccable work in progress by the Commission.