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Ugandans embrace 2015 Land Awareness Week

With the hope of learning and getting new ideas on land, hundreds of Ugandans thronged UMA Conference Hall-Kampala from December 7-11th -2015 to take part in the [2015]-Uganda Land Awareness Week.

"As land owners we are supposed to utilize opportunities like the Land Awareness Week to know our rights on land and defend them, said Baker, a participant and Proprietor of the Wakiso based-Uganda Land Owners Association.

Baker's words apply to most Ugandans, participants who took part in the five day event.

This was the second time the Alliance was organizing a similar event. The inaugural one took place at the end of 2013.

The 2015 event brought together representatives from Government, Civil Society, Academia, development partners, private sector, media and the general public to discuss a number of pertinent land issues in Uganda.

The idea behind Land Awareness Week is to bridge the historical questions relating to land in Uganda and the needed future reforms in a bid to build synergies and a common understanding of our destiny as a people.

It seeks to open up the Lands, Housing and Urban Development Sector to the general public making it more relevant and accessible to those various segments of society it is intended to support.

Organized under the theme; Support Land Reforms for a Prosperous Uganda; this year's event was funded by Democratic Governance Facility, Trocaire and Mercycorps.

The highlights

Speaking at the opening of the event, ULA's Board Chairperson, Mr. Richard Ssewakiryanga said that the event was planned to answer the ever increasing number of questions Ugandans have regarding land. He said that it is through such events that land governance can easily be extended to the common people.

"Every day we listen to radios...news about land conflicts, land grabbing, he said, it is from such forum that solutions to those problems can be found. Indeed reports indicate that 70% of the cases reported in Ugandan Courts of Law are land or land related.

Mr. Edmond Owor, the Executive Director of ULA said the Land Awareness Week was organized, planned partly to achieve the organization's five year strategic plan [2014-2019] goals.

Mr. Owor said issues that have to do with national level advocacy, women land rights and more importantly protection and enforcement of land rights of the poor and vulnerable can be achieved once the various actors are brought together.

"....and that is partly why we have the Land Awareness Week", Mr. Owor said. He used the same space to present the International Land Coalition Award that ULA won in Senegal in May 2015 after supporting communities in Karamoja Sub-region to form Communal Land Associations (CLAs). CLAs in the land of warrior nomads are helping communities to effectively administer their land and more importantly, to fight land grabbers.

Speaking on behalf of the Ministry of Lands Housing and Urban Development, Mr. Emmanuel Alaunah said, government was happy with the efforts Civil Society Organizations and other actors were putting in to ensure that land governance is managed in the country.

He said that government was ready to provide solutions to land challenges through the various legal and policy framework put in place.

He said that Uganda's land question has three concerns: unlawful land evictions, underutilization of land and cases of land conflicts.

These have to be managed well in order for us to achieve our development goals.

Development partners–DGF, MercyCorps, Trocaire and others were equally optimistic that the notion of People Centred Land Governance can easily yield fruits through events like The Uganda Land Awareness Week.

Technical staff from the ministry of lands gave presentations like the National Land Policy, National Housing Policy, National Urban Policy, and the Condominium Law among others. These presentations gave chance to the audience to interact with the Lands Officials on what each of them meant to their daily lives.

The rest of the days were covered with exhibitions done by various land actors and other important presentations regarding land, environment and natural resources. On Dec.10, we had the People's Parliament managed by NTV-Uganda under the topic; how can Land Lead to Economic Development. Parliament was well attended and the issues raised were noted by government officials for future management.

Land actors that exhibited their work during the week included; The Ministry of Lands, ULA, Pelum, Caritas Jinja, International Justice Mission, Kikandwa Environmental Association, Legal Aid Service Providers Network (LASPNET), Send A Cow, Agency for Integrated Rural Development (AFIRD), Advocates Coalition for Development and Environment among others.

On the closing day, ULA's Executive Director, Mr. Owor thanked development partners for the support provided during the week. Going forward, he said the Alliance will continue to have the Week organized so as not to give space to the unanswered land questions. "Our plan is that we organize next year's Land Awareness Week in such a way that activities are held in the various regions of the country" he said.

Posted 16th, January 2016
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