Ugandans side with Tanzania on land ownership in EAC By CHARLES KAZOOBA THE EAST AFRICAN Posted Saturday, December 27 2008 at 10:29 The majority of Ugandans consulted in the ongoing public hearings by members of the East African Legislative Assembly have rejected foreign ownership of land by citizens from other East African Community partner states, a position that has also been articulated by Tanzania. The Ugandans say that consultation on land in the ongoing Common Market negotiations should be suspended until the region has formed a political union. We have to move very slowly on land because of different tenure systems and legal regimes in the region. Let us wait until after the political federation, then we can talk about land. It is very sensitive within Uganda and Tanzania. There is no need to rush, said Ugandan legislator John Arimpa Kigyagi during a public hearing in Mbarara. The Ugandans, according to analysts, could force the five partner states back to the drawing board since technocrats from the five capitals have already recommended in the draft Common Market Protocol that land, as a prime factor of production, should be available to East Africans for ownership on equal terms. Clement Kandole, the Mbarara Resident District Commissioner, who has been involved in negotiations between Uganda and Tanzania after the latter expelled thousands of Ugandans and Rwandans from the country, also did not mince words about the protocol. If Tanzania is concerned about land, why cant we go slow? Mr Kandole said. They harbour quiet suspicions about our people (occupying Tanzania). When we are talking about fast-tracking, they talk about slow-tracking. I think we should comprehensively look at the underlying factors. Let us first build consensus in the region. Uganda is currently reviewing its land laws to stop end massive evictions experienced in the past, which ignited violent conflicts between tenants and landlords who acquired huge chunks of land as colonial favours. It is suspected that the views held by Ugandans on land are pegged on their experiences in those violent land clashes. This development reinforces a sharp split between the partner states that emerged since the Common Market negotiations kicked off. Tanzania has been viewed by other EAC members as a stumbling block to the integration process due to its apparent refusal to agree with other partner states on critical provisions of the draft protocol such as free movement of persons, rights of establishment and residence, and permanent residence. In all regional meetings held in Kigali, Bujumbura, Nairobi, Kampala and recently Zanzibar, the Tanzanians have either stayed away or flatly rejected the proposals to consolidate the five economies into one giant regional economy. However, all the disagreements have been exhibited at the technical level of negotiations. This was one of the major reasons the East African Legislative Assembly launched parallel consultations to collect the views of the public on the Common Market negotiations. But so far, views held by Ugandans seem to contradict what their government has expressed. And if such becomes of other partner states, it is expected that the current stand on the negotiations would be fundamentally reviewed. During the Zanzibar talks, reports indicated that four of the EAC countries were now pushing for the fast tracking of amendments to the EACs Treaty that set up the EAC to allow for majority rule to be used in decision-making instead of consensus. If the Treaty is amended to replace consensus with majority rule in decision making, then Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi can move on with the integration process even when Tanzania disagrees with some decisions. That position would most probably enable progress on the regional negotiations. Tanzanians have argued that though land is instrumental in the integration process, the debate should be left in the hands of the individual partner states. It is a complex issue. We want to first harmonise our laws on land with Zanzibar. The integration process is gradual; it cannot be overnight. But as of now citizens from other partner states can exploit our investment laws which enable foreigners to access land. In fact for us we are surprised about this land debate within EAC. We dont understand what those other East Africans are talking about. All I can say there is no free land in any partner state, Janet Mmari, Tanzanian EALA legislator told The EastAfrican during the consultations in Uganda. After the talks in Zanzibar Tanzanias Minister for East African Cooperation, Dr Deodorous Kamala said majority of his people were against such proposals for fear that it may allow an influx of people who would come to Tanzania and grab land. He said land was a very sensitive issue and that Tanzania is of the opinion that the issue is not supposed to be under discussion on Common Market negotiations. While in Uganda early this month Tanzania Deputy Minister for East African Cooperation Mohammed Aboud also expounded their position. In Tanzania the land is public and (we) feel okay with it. We also feel that our national identity card should remain. Why shouldnt these other countries adopt our land laws? he said. What remains contentious in the land debate within the region are the different land tenure systems and legal regimes practiced by the different partner states. Tanzanias land tenure system has undergone several changes since colonial time, including the declaration that all land is owned by the government in trust for the whole nation with different legal regimes applying to rural and urban areas. Whereas in Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi private ownership of land is dominant. Ugandan EALA member Bernard Mulengani also concurs that the issue of land alone cannot derail progress in the negotiations, and should be shelved for now. The views solicited by EALA will, according to Mr. Mulengani, be debated next year for adoption in the final protocol. Tanzania has not only opposed land reforms but also the use of national identification cards as instruments that facilitate free movement across the region, arguing that some people from the partner states have lived in the country for over 30 years and had even been given the opportunity to apply for permanent residence but refused to do so. They argued that certain clauses in the protocol would give such people permanent residence through the backdoor.