By Agaba Joab
The new Minister of Lands ,Housing andUrban Development , Ms. Judith Nabakooba, has reassured Ugandans that no land evictions are allowed whatever the circumstances -during the 42-day COVID-19 lockdown period.
Addressing the media at the land ministry headquarters in Kampala today, Nabakooba said that because government systems such as courts of law are not fully operational during the lockdown, it was wrong to evict people who have nowhere to report too.
“ I therefore want to direct as follows; no tenant by occupancy should be evicted from their bibanja or the land they are in possession of during the COVID-19 lockdown period. Any forceful engagements and /or impending evictions should be reported to the nearest Police Station, Office of RDC and Courts of Law, to verify the authenticity of the orders and avert destruction of life and property,” the Minister stated .
She explained that where landlords choose to sell land to a different person other than the tenants during this COVID-19 lockdown period, the rights of the existing tenants shall not be affected in any way.
“The old Landlord shall take the responsibility of introducing the new Landlord to the tenants for purposes of paying him/her busuulu, after the COVID-19 lockdown period is lifted,” Nabakooba stated.
The Minister’s directives come at a time when there is public outcry about an increase in reported cases of illegal evictions in the areas of Mukono , Mpigi, Nakasongora, Mubende, Kassanda, Buikwe, Wakiso, Sembabule, Hoima, Kagadi, Nebbi, Dokolo, Sheema and Mbale among others.
Nabakooba directed the district Security Committees chaired by the respective Resident District Commissioners/Resident City Commissioners to help lawful and bonafide occupants to remain and enjoy possession of their bibanja land during the COVID 19 lockdown period.
The interim measures , she said shall remain in place during the entire period of the COVID-19 lockdown to protect the rights and obligations of both the Landlords and tenants on registered land and customary land owners on unregistered land.
The Ministry of Lands is also set to launch a Toll-Free line that will be used by members of the public to report any cases of illegal evictions and threats thereof.
Nabakooba further revealed that following the establishment of strong internal COVID-19 prevention systems, the Ministry has taken the decision to re-open the land zonal offices across the country.
The offices started to operate on the 15th of July 2021 but in strict compliance of the Presidential and Ministry of Health directives on COVID-19.
“Part of these directives mandate all government institutions to maintain 10% capacity of Human Resource. In line with the above, staff at all Zonal offices will be expected to work on rotation in line with the sequence of the work to ensure timely completion of land transactions,” she said.