In a 4,400-word transcript of his question-and-answer session with journalists, President Yoweri Museveni addressed the illegal land evictions, vandalism of electricity infrastructure, high commodity prices, and the new wave of abductions. Read the transcript by Samuel Muhindo.
Journalist: We have several departments handling land matters, but there’s almost no change. Illegal land evictions continue. The nation wants to know your position on these land issues. Sometimes, Sam Mayanja, the minister of state for lands, gives orders that are defied by Brig. Moses Shaban Lukyamuzi’s presidential taskforce.
Museveni: The land problem was caused by the original sin of Mailo (land tenure system). Colonialists came and took large swaths of land, making occupiers landlords. Over time, these landlords have been selling to new landlords. They sell land to new people, yet people are already occupying the land.
What type of serfdom is that? In 1975, President Idi Amin decreed to abolish Mailo land. Mailo Land was created by a British decree. When we came (in 1986), we declined to use decrees. We needed to negotiate politically with the people involved and legislate. What we did in the Constituent Assembly was bring back some reforms done by Governor Mitchel between 1924-1928. Mailo was very bad at the start.
These 1,000 chiefs, like Apollo Kaggwa, were traitors and were each awarded eight square miles of land occupied by people because they collaborated with the British to fight Kabaka Mwanga and Omukama Kabalega of Bunyoro. These landlords caused much damage because the British introduced cotton growing in 1903 by the Uganda company.
The tenants decided to start growing cotton, which became a form of paying rent to occupy the land. If a tenant harvested three bags of cotton, the landlord would take a third of the harvest. When they got fed up, the Bataka rioted in 1920. In 1924, the Uganda Company launched an inquiry into the uprising.
The landlords would take a portion of the tenant’s harvest but would also evict the tenant at any time. There was no limit on rent, and tenants faced eviction at any time. Governor Mitchel’s 1924 Commission of Inquiry recommended that no evictions take place without the approval of the governor. The commission also set an upper limit on the rent charged.
They set aside eight shillings per year. When we came, we brought back the reform made by Governor Mitchell because Amin had abolished it. When the governor enacted the reforms, he wanted in 1928, many Mailo landlords began selling. The Mailo landholders we have today are not the original holders that got free land. They are the purchasers. These were also not clever.
How do you buy land occupied by people? I am a rancher. I ranch cows, not people. I cannot buy a piece of land full of people; to ranch them. I cannot sell land occupied by tenants. As someone who likes development, I cannot sell land occupied by people.
The idea was that you could either send these tenants away from your land or charge rent with an upper limit. I stated that you could not remove people from their homes without my permission as governor. This is what we brought back in the Land Act of 1998. These evictions are illegal.
There were landlords in the Constituent Assembly (CA) like Apollo (Nsibambi, the former prime minister) who wanted us to accept economic rent instead of nominal rent. They wanted the landlord and the tenant to discuss this. That notion was rejected by us. We told them to follow the rent established in 1928. We made it Shs 1,000, equal to the eight shillings charged in 1928. This would be fair to the tenant and the landlord.
However, the landlords said that Shs 1,000 could not be of any help to them. I also asked them how much I earned when a soldier saluted me. I told them it was a mere acknowledgement of seniority. The problem is that these people do not listen. They did not listen to the NRM win-win strategy for the landlord and the tenant.
The confusion you see now came because some people did not heed our call. The tenant should maintain their land while the landlord waits for help from the government. Minister Mayanja is both a lawyer and a freedom fighter. I shall come and assess each case on its merits. The entire confusion is because many selfish people did not heed our win-win strategy.
The ideal way out would be to maintain the status quo, where the tenants use their land for free. If they can develop themselves privately, then so be it until the government has enough money to be able to compensate these landlords. We have put off putting money into the land fund because we have had competing interests such as investing in roads, schools, and so on.
These disagreements arise from not heeding our call. Everyone thinks they are clever. Mayanja is a very active man. The confusion is mainly here in Buganda. We do not have the same problems in other areas. There were a few Mailos in Ankole, but you couldn’t tell the Banyankole that you were their landlord.
That system is only oppressing our people in Buganda. You find some people claiming it’s Buganda culture (enono ya Buganda). This is not true. It came from collaborators.
Red tape has limited people from accessing programs like Emyooga and the Parish Development Model. How do you propose to address the challenge?
For the PDM, its plans are clear, and there’s money. In the past, we had planned without money, but now the money is closer to the people at the parish. The Emyooga is in the constituency, which is also not very far. If there is red tape, we shall see it. We are not going to change strategy because the administrators are weak.
I will take time to visit some parishes. I shall invite people from the parishes, and I shall find out who is playing games. If there is anyone playing games, we shall get them because the parishes and con- constituencies are known. The PDM is mainly for those with four acres or less.
If anyone is eating this money, we shall get them.
Your government has been accused of gross human rights violations. Suspects are detained beyond the mandatory 48 hours. It takes longer for suspects to be produced in court, and judgments are delayed because the Criminal Investigations and Intelligence Directorate (CIID) or the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions takes long to complete investigations. What plans do you have to ensure that we have enough manpower to address the challenge?
The NRM government is known for protecting human rights. We were against extrajudicial killings and all these arrests without charges. We organized everyone from the local councilor to the member of parliament.
If anyone has been arrested in the village, these structures should bring it up. If anybody violates rights in Uganda, there is popular power everywhere. They should be able to bring up in- stances of violations. It shouldn’t be just MPs talking about such issues.
I would encourage them to bring up all these issues, including those of land evictions. These elected leaders should bring up these legitimate issues. That should surely deal with the arrests and all that. Concerning the issue of long-term incarceration without trial, I believe I have identified the source of the problem.
The main problem would be the inadequate number of judges and magistrates. We had very many things to do and decided to first deal with roads. If you looked at the budget, you would notice that the ministry of Works had Shs 640 billion at one time while the judiciary had Shs 300 billion. It is not that we didn’t know that the judiciary needed more money.
We simply had very many things to do. If you have more judges but no electricity, how will the economy grow? Let’s have fewer judges now so that we can have more roads and electricity. We are now paying scientists more because they impact the economy so that we can do other things.
For human rights, the infrastructure is there. Let’s use it. If someone is arrested in Uganda, we need to ask, “From which village?” Does the village have an LC1? Does the village have a counsellor? Why don’t they bring the case up? Even if the policemen were corrupt, the elected people are the antidote for corruption. Why don’t they defend their people?
Find out why they have arrested your people. If the police officers are corrupt, they shall fear because the elected leaders shall show up asking for their people, and they shall expose the corrupt police officers. I would love to encourage all those people to use this power, which was given to them by the NRM.
On your recent visit to Busoga, you were shocked by the poverty levels in the region. Basoga have stopped growing sugarcane on a small scale. Since they stopped growing cane, they no longer have a good source of income. We now have rare earth metals in districts like Bugweri and Bugiri, etc. Does the government have a plan to help Busoga use these resources to transform the region?
I don’t want you to divert my Basoga people. Although we’re going to develop these resources, not everyone will benefit from them. I insist that the quickest answer is agriculture. Also, the land is fragmented. There’s a village in Fort Portal called Rwengaju, where they have one acre, which is used for poultry (eggs) and pasture for dairy cattle. There is still more land in Busoga for intensive agriculture.
Sugar cane is only beneficial if grown on a large scale, like 100 acres or more. Ask all our Basoga to go for PDM. For minerals, you have observed that we have started making electric buses and motorcycles.
These electric cars need electric batteries. For the batteries to be made, rare earth minerals must be used. We will undoubtedly develop them. You must have heard that I banned the exportation of minerals because other people would benefit. Not everyone will benefit directly from the oil in Bunyoro.
For how long do you intend to keep Facebook out of Uganda, and for what reasons?
Facebook was arrogant and was being used to attack us. When our people used it to answer back, they were shut out. That’s when the squabbles began. We told them that if they didn’t want the head of the family, they should show it by walking out. We are going to chase Facebook.
Facebook has been offline for three years. When I attempt to ask whether boda boda and taxis are working, I am informed that things are working normally, although Facebook has been shut down in Uganda. If they stop playing their games, we shall open them up.
Compare the population growth with the Gross Domestic Product’s performance. The growth is around three per cent. It has been staggering and dropping. What do your four years look like for the economy?
There’s been a little slowdown since the pandemic started, but we’re still doing well. If you wanted to prove that Uganda is strong, the pandemic proved it. During the pandemic, tourism and hotel activities stopped, and the economy grew by a certain percentage. This year, it is predicted that the economy will grow by 5.3 per cent. People’s earnings are going up, and the economy is bigger.
I think by the end of this year, the economy is projected to be worth $53.3 billion. Uganda has now entered the middle-income status category because the population is about 43 million. The income per capita is now above the $1039 threshold for everyone. It was a bit slower, but it is good enough. The only challenge that we had was the drought because it affected the food supply. We are handling it with irrigation.
What are you doing to stop vandalism of the electricity infrastructure?
Once I come in, those vandals will not like it. Some of them will be six feet under if I come in. I have not sat in on any meetings to discuss vandalism, but the Prime Minister can say something about it.
Nabbanja: Your Excellency, they have affected us badly. I wish that you interest yourself in the matter. We have had several meetings. We have also involved security personnel. We shall fight this together when you come in. The line from Bujagali was permanently damaged. Recently, the line through the sugarcane on the Kakira side was also affected.
Museveni: It will be solved.
You have encouraged people in western Uganda (Rukungiri) to vacate the swamps, and they have heeded your call, but they no longer have a sustainable source of living. What has the government done to help them?
I am very glad that some people left the wetlands in Rukungiri. I request the prime minister to get in touch with the journalist who raised the matter so that we can provide alternative livelihood support to these people who have left wetlands in Rukungiri. If the wetlands in some areas have wide plains, we can help these people develop fish farming near the wetlands. The prime minister shall follow it up with the journalist from Rukungiri.
The nodding syndrome has affected over 5,000 children in Kitgum, Pader, Lira, Oyam, and other districts. What is the government doing to help the scientists who are treating these children?
When I last heard about the nodding disease syndrome, it was caused by a black fly, which resides in fast-flowing streams. We sprayed the river streams. I don’t believe there have been any new cases since we sprayed.
The prime minister will note the question, and she will follow it up. The 5,000 are the old cases, and we shall see what to do to support their families. The prime minister will check with the ministry of Health to inquire whether we have new cases of nodding syndrome.
Baryomunsi: In addition to the spraying, the government also provided a drug known as ivermectin. The government has been providing food for the affected families through health centers. There are also NGOs operating in these areas that provide psychosocial support and any other forms of medication to supplement what the government is offering now. Dr. Onzivua of Mulago is working with Canadian professionals.
The roads between Nebbi and Olwiyo, as well as Koboko and Moyo, are in poor condition. A journey of eight hours from Arua to Kampala now takes 12 hours.
I was told the section of road from Nebbi to Olwiyo was being constructed. The prime minister will check and reply through radio. Koboko-Moyo shall be tarred. When I was last in the area, the tarmacking for Atiak-Adjumani-Moyo Road was underway. What remains to be tarred is the Koboko, Yumbe road.
Fuel prices have affected commodity prices, which are now very high. Is there a possibility for fuel subsidies? Schools are increasing tuition fees, citing the high prices of food.
We are going full blast on irrigation. When it comes to fuel prices, there are two options.The first option is to go into electric vehicles, especially boda boda. There are plans to make a huge shift from fuel-powered to electric boda boda vehicles. It will take the form of swaps.
You will get an electric boda boda when you bring a fuel boda boda. I negotiated with people, and I’m sure plans are almost materializing so that all these good fuel boda-bodas are phased out. Secondly, we’re engaging the Russians to end that war with Ukraine. When this war has ended, fuel prices will eventually go down. Be patient; it is safer that way.
It was resolved that all foreign militia groups return to their countries of origin. What happens to the M23 rebels? Are we seeing a full-blown war in eastern Congo? Last year, about the same time, you told us who the real ADF is. Twelve months later, we have seen a resurgence of the ADF attacking civilians and police posts. Some people think that ADF activities are linked to the vandalism of the power lines. According to you, what is the ADF? Is it something to do with angry Ugandans, veterans, or geopolitics? Or is it a form of sabotage within your government?
Groups like the ADF will not come out willingly in Eastern Congo.We shall force them out. Recently, a certain group wanted to come back through Ntoroko, and the entire group was wiped out. For some other groups, like the M23, we are encouraging the Congolese government to negotiate with them.
If the rebels refuse, then we shall use force. That ADF is a group that was started by our young Muslims here who had been trained in Arab countries but didn’t want to work in the mid-1990s. They were supported at the time by Omar Bashir of Sudan and Mobutu. The rebels utilized the vacuum in eastern Congo.
They had gardens and controlled that area of eastern Congo until we went there. Now that we have gone, no one will survive. These attacks on police stations and vandalism of lines will also end. Remember that these peo- ple used to vandalize factories, but they stopped.
Recently, a politician has been highlighting different people who have been abducted. Some of those who have been released are in a very bad state. Who is abducting Ugandans? Can security give us the count of those people under detention awaiting prosecution? What will your government do for the people who have been arrested, tortured, and left for dead?
One of my staff members, Major Agaba, will get in touch with you so that we can get three examples to start with. We will learn about individuals abducting Ugandans from these people. After the 2020 riots, I called meetings with these security people and gave them guidelines in writing. These guidelines are already in the law. What I was doing was something under the law.
Who are these people who you say are abducting Ugandans? It is okay to arrest someone, but how do you arrest them? I have told security people not to beat suspects. No beating! You can get the facts without beating people through proper intelligence and interrogation. We need more separation of roles through capacity building. A single person cannot play the roles of ar- rester, investigator, and prosecutor.