Article 237(2) (c) in the constitution of Uganda, states that noncitizens may acquire leases in land in accordance with the laws prescribed by parliament, and the laws so prescribed shall define a noncitizen for the purpose of this paragraph. Refugees are identified as noncitizens therefore the law doesn’t allow them to own land on freehold but on lease basis.
More so, the statutory instruments for the refugee regulations Act 2010, also indicates that a refugee shall not acquire or hold freehold interest in land. This simply means that a refugee can’t own a land tittle, but can only possess land on lease hold and that is for a specified number of years after which the land is returned to the initial owner. On Contrary, there are still cases where refugees want and actually demand to own land, especially in the urban centers. A capacity building session was therefore organized to address this land issue by sensitizing local leaders and refugee leaders in Bwaise and Kawempe, city suburbs which are heavily populated by refugees.
The session was conducted by Care and Assistance for Forced Migrants (CAFOMI) and Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) at Kawempe Division ICLA center. It had its emphasis on building the capacity of local leaders on best practices on case management, the laws of Uganda and the procedures in managing housing land and property, ways in which local leaders can ably facilitate legal and civil documentation of refugees and finally managing challenges that may arise during the case management process.
CAFOMI and NRC being informed of the fact that local leaders are part of the land management system, thought it wise to engage them through capacity building, to ensure proper case management in accordance with the Laws of Uganda. Meanwhile, according to the local council Act, local council leaders are in charge of managing land issues and this makes them primary solution givers to refugee land issues.
Aside from local council leaders, there were four refugee leaders, one area councilor and a representative from the office of the Resident District Commissioner.
By the end of the session, the participants were able to find their way around better management of matters concerning housing, land and property rights, legal and civil documentation and collaborative dispute resolution, improved knowledge on laws and regulations of Uganda and knowing their mandate as local leaders in the areas they serve.
Maria Lutalo Nakatudde, legal assistant CAFOMI, said that the capacity building session was very important because local leaders are the first point of contact to both refugees and members of the host community in resolving disputes regarding land.
“The refresher training session on the laws of Uganda will ensure that decisions made by local leaders are fair to all in accordance with the law,” Nakatudde added.
“Conducting capacity building for duty bearers such as local council leaders will help in enhancing already existing synergies in land management processes to effect justice for all persons especially the displaced and vulnerable persons.” Florence Namugere, Protection coordinator CAFOMI said.
CAFOMI is implementing a Legal Assistance project in partnership with NRC under the ICLA project funded by ECHO. This project is delivered through information, counseling and legal assistance to inform and coordinate the refugee response and protect rights of vulnerable persons.