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Uganda Land Commission on the spot over NARO land titles

The team from NARO led by the Director General, Dr Yona Baguma (L), speaking to their case before COSASE (Photo/Parliament)

Kampala, (UG): The National Agricultural Research Organisation (NARO) has appealed to lawmakers to intervene in ensuring that the Uganda Land Commission (ULC) hands over land belonging to the organisation.

The NARO Secretariat was appearing before the Public Accounts Committee on Commissions, Statutory Authorities and State Enterprises (COSASE) on Tuesday, 22 August 2023 to respond to the Auditor General’s report for the 2021/2022 financial year.

According to NARO, the organisation owns 12,000 hectares of land through 16 public agricultural research institutes across the country with but majority of the land titled under ULC.

NARO’s legal officer, Timothy Kakembo, said that as a result, ULC has issued titles to private developers on land owned by NARO.

“Every year, the government allocates resources to NARO to make massive investments in billions of shillings on this land. Unfortunately, NARO does not have ownership,” he said.

Kakembo added that as long as the land titles are under the ULC, with NARO as a restricted user, it does not give the organisation clout to assert its proprietary ownership.

“We, therefore, request that this committee moves Uganda Land Commission to issue transfer instruments to NARO. How I wish we would have these titles exclusive in the names of NARO,” he said.

Prof. Justus Rutaisire, NARO’s former Director of Research, said that the organisation has been engaging ULC for the past 10 years to transfer the land titles into the organisation’s name, but in vain.

“ULC agreed to give NARO leasehold for 99 years and we went ahead to follow their letter and submitted all the paperwork for the titles to be transferred into the name of NARO,” said Rutaisire.

Committee chairperson, Hon. Joel Ssenyonyi, said that the committee will look into the matter.

“We need to see how that issue gets resolved; NARO needs to get to a point where it owns its land,” Ssenyonyi said.

Worker’s representative, Hon. Charles Bakkabulindi, accused ULC of intentionally withholding the organisation’s titles, thereby causing court cases of multiple ownership.

“It is a trick by the Uganda Land Commission not to transfer these titles. NARO is a legal entity and should have land in its name. This committee should follow this up,” he said.

Hon. Nathan Itungo (Indp., Kashari South County) pointed out the need for the committee to support NARO to acquire its titles.

“If you have a register of the land you own and you do not have land titles of that particular land, are you owning the land or not. We need to help NARO as far as ownership is concerned, otherwise we do not know whether you [NARO] are squatters or not,” said Itungo.

Hon. Bumali Mpindi (Indp., PWD) said that failure by NARO to acquire the land titles gives leeway to ULC to engage in land grabbing.

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