Justice Kasule wants law on customary land revised

Retired Court of Appeal Judge, Justice Remmy Kasule wants laws governing customary land ownership in the country revised to give a legal definition on what constitutes a customary tenant or customary land owner.

Justice Kasule appeared on Thursday before the Justice Catherine Bamugemerire-led Judicial Commission of Inquiry on Land matter where he was invited to give expert opinion on land conflicts in the country.

The Land Act (1998) defines customary tenure as a system of land tenure regulated by customary rules, which are limited in their operation to a particular description or class of person.  One can be a customary owner upon succession, obtaining a portion of land or being born on land that has been held under customary law.

Kasule says that even though one holding land under such circumstances uses, practices and pays the requisite fees to a landlord in case of tenants, there is need to clearly define who a tenant is.
“It appears that to-day, in many parts of the country, one who commits criminal trespass to a particular land and this trespass is not objected to for a set number of years succeeds in having a crime of criminal trespass turned into a lawful act of ownership , occupation and use of the land. This ought not to be allowed. It contributes greatly to the cause of disputes on the land to-day,”  the retired Justice said.

Kasule also recommended that a certificate of title be provided to all occupants on customary land to avoid disputes of land grabbing.

Kasule argues that the Land Act (1998) doesn’t put into consideration the interest of bonafide occupants under the customary law or lawful occupants whose interests don’t appear on the certificate of title.

“Every certificate of title must show the other tenures or interests on that piece of land. This way land disputes shall be greatly reduced and the land be better utilised because no-one will own and or occupy land without knowing the exact status of the land,” Kasule said.

The retired justice also suggested that a clear definition of family land be constituted as a mechanism to curb conflicts that arise among families over land.
He is concerned that while section 38 (a) and 39 of the Land Act offer security to spouses in respect of the land where the family home is situated, there is need to define what family land in general constitutes.

Kasule suggested that both the husband and wife should be required to register with the registrar of titles their family property.

“The children of the marriage whether customary or otherwise  should also be vested with interest in the family property up to the age of adulthood when they can sustain themselves on their own elsewhere,” said Kasule.

Kasule further suggested that customary land owners be obliged to have the boundaries of their land properly demarcated, land surveyed and acquire titles to avoid land grabbing.