UTC Report:Grassroots Engagement on Effective Land Governance for Increased Access to Adequate Housing and Public Open Spaces in the City

UTC Report:Grassroots Engagement on Effective Land Governance for Increased Access to Adequate Housing and Public Open Spaces in the City

Uganda Community Based Association for Women and Children Welfare (UCOBAC), in partnership with Friedrich Ebert Stiftung (FES), held a two day Urban Thinkers Campus (UTC) in Kawempe Division. The goal was to facilitate effective participation and engagement of grassroots communities and affected persons in the conversation on responsive urban land governance for an effective and transformative urbanization process. Over 150 urban dwellers were in attendance.
The UTC participants including; researchers, professionals, civil society actors, academia, decision makers and grassroots men and women deliberated on The City They Need. Some of the results of the UTC were;
(a) Sensitization of participants to existing legal frameworks and plans for land and housing sector and about Public Open Spaces;
(b) Clarification of different stakeholder roles and responsibilities;
(c) Strengthening of the working relationship and collaboration between the UTC organizers, local leadership and participants of the dialogue.
(d) Commitment from local leaders such as local council chairpersons and councilors to widely share information on the New Urban Agenda with their communities.
This is aimed at stimulating community participation in the on-going urbanization processes.
 
 
Corruption among top government officials and leaders in the land sector was highlighted as one of the major vices affecting the urbanization process in Kawempe Division and other urban areas of Uganda. This is evident in the way that land that is meant for Public Open Spaces is sold off to rich investors by leaders without consideration of the consequences of these actions.  Some poor urban dwellers have fallen victims of these corruption practices and have lost their land and homes because they are ignorant of the land and housing laws and their rights. Additionally, some simply do not have faith in the justice system, assuming that cases will always be ruled in favor of the rich or influential persons.
One community member bitterly complained, “The division office approves plans of rich investors without assessing the land situation of the places that the investors have acquired and plan to implement these plans – no one is consulted, we only get to know what’s happening during eviction when the police and Kampala capital City Authority (KCCA) enforcers are involved.
Another said, “Tenements are broken down by KCCA officers without prior notice to the residents. Such actions deprive the local person of housing. Some of us do not know what a lawful eviction is. Personally I also do not understand the land terminologies of leasing, bonafide occupant, lawful occupant, etc – we need to know these things to help understand our rights.
A concerned citizen commented, “Investors are busy reclaiming wetlands and no one is restraining them.”
 
 
Corruption was also cited through the registration and issuance of one land title to more than one owner by the land offices.
Community members of Kawempe Division largely complained about the poor sanitation conditions which affect their living standards due to vulnerability to health risks. “Latrines in our villages are very unbecoming. They are not frequently emptied of sewage and this leads to high spread of diseases like cholera and diarrhea.
Sewage sometimes flows into the water streams. No one seems to care to help us on sewage – our toilets are full. Our children are sick. It’s a horrible situation. We need help.”
 
 
Other challenges that emerged from the dialogue include;
a) failure to access adequate and descent housing because of the unaffordable houses constructed by government’s National Housing and Corporation Company. Urban dwellers in informal settlements are poor with low incomes and some are unemployed and hence cannot afford the houses with the cheapest costing over 150 million Uganda shillings (USD 42000)
b) Some public open spaces are inaccessible because they are privately owned and thus have restrictions on accessibility. However, community members complained about police and the army taking over the use of some of spaces – common people are arrested when they try to access/use these spaces.
c) Failure to properly enforce urban planning regulations.
d) Uncoordinated private sector initiatives.
Key dialogue outcomes were;
  1. Local leaders committed to organize sensitization meetings for community members on government programs in the area of land and housing. Both leaders and community members will thus be able to get involved and support the localization of the New Urban Agenda making it a participatory and inclusive process.
  2. Development of a policy brief targeting policy makers and implementing agencies in the sector with the urban dwellers’ input to contribute to the planning and implementation of policies, for example Uganda’s National Urban Policy, which is still in draft form, National Housing Policy and National Land Policy. This way urban dwellers especially the poor in informal settlements can be assured of pro-poor and gendered land governance. 

CLICK HERE TO READ FULL UTC REPORT

 

Author: Nalubinga Gertrude. M
Photo credits: UCOBAC (cc)