Land grabbing in Uganda

By Pamela Mbabazi, current holder of Claude Ake Visiting Chair

My research investigates the phenomenon of large-scale land acquisitions (also commonly referred to as land grabbing) in Uganda and tries to establish the invisible hand in land deals in the country, focusing mainly on the districts of Ssembabule, Mubende and Buliisa, which have experienced a number of land-related clashes in the recent past. Generally, most of the land grabbing in Uganda is characterised by discretion if not utter secrecy, since the subject is politically and socially sensitive. The research, however, established that although the customary land rights of individuals and rural communities are recognised under the Ugandan constitution, in practice these rights are being violated. As a result, communities are being displaced and losing vital access to natural resources, including land for farming, firewood, forest products and, in some places, water supplies. The reduction in the local food supply has led to increased food prices, making it hard for local people to survive and make ends meet. There is undoubtedly a high risk of food insecurity in most of the areas where this land grabbing is taking place. In the oil-rich Albertine region, local communities are losing land to unscrupulous local businessmen and women, who have made speculative land purchases with a view to selling this land to oil companies at a huge profit. Land conflicts and ethnic clashes are increasing in most of the areas where land grabbing has occurred. Unless something is done to curtail this negative trend, the future of the increasingly landless peasants in these rural areas is too ghastly to contemplate. Uganda exemplifies a global trend. The food, energy and financial crises of recent years have galvanised corporations, governments, foreign investors and rich nationals to look to land and agriculture overseas, but also locally, to secure food and energy supplies and make quick profits with speculative capital, often at the expense of local peasant populations

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