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Land Tenure System in Uganda

The following is a summary of the Uganda land tenure system:
Customary land: Under this tenure, land is communally owned by a particular group of people in a particular area. Its utilization is usually controlled by elders, clan heads or a group in its own well-defined administrative structures. This is usually found in the North, Eastern, North east, North West and some parts of Western Uganda. Over 70% of land in Uganda is held on customary tenure system. In such cases, people own their land, have their rights to it, but don’t have land titles. Some tenants on such land allocate specific areas to themselves with known and defined boundaries usually marked by ridges, trenches, and trees.

Freehold Land: It is a system of owning land in perpetuity and was set up by an agreement between the Kingdoms and the British Government. Grants of land in freehold were made by the Crown and later by the Uganda Land Commission. The grantee of land in freehold was and is entitled to a certificate of title. Most of this land was issued to church missionaries and academic Institutions and a few individuals. Real Estate Transactions involving freehold land are governed by the Registration of Titles Act. Little land is held under freehold tenure in Uganda.

Mailo Land: Land held under mailo tenure system is mainly in Buganda (Central region) and some parts of Western Uganda. The system confers freehold granted by the colonial government in exchange for political co-operation under the 1900 Buganda Agreement. Mailo land, like freehold is registered under the Registration of Titles Act. All transactions must therefore be entered in a register guaranteed by the state. Under this tenure, the holder of a mailo land title has absolute ownership of that land. One only loses such ownership when such land is needed for national interests but still amicable compensations have to be done for a peaceful relocation.

Leasehold Land: This is a system of owning land for a particular period of time. In Uganda you can get a lease from an individual, local authority or government for a period usually 49 or 99 years with agreed terms and conditions. The leasehold Real Estate transactions, being essentially contractual allow parties to define the terms and conditions of access in such a manner that suits their reciprocal land use needs. A grant of land would be made by the owner of freehold, customary or Mailo or by the Crown or Uganda Land Commission to another person for an agreed period of time. The grantee of a lease for an agreed time is entitled to a certificate of title.

Public Land: Under this type of land tenure, the government owns land and has the right to lease it to any company or individual on specific terms and covenants. In most cases, land under this arrangement is not for settlement; it is basically for business and usually located in urban areas such as Kampala and other big towns in the country.

Since 1908, the land registry was run on a manual system of record keeping which was affected by problems of speed, inefficiency, inaccuracy, and lack of adequate internal controls as the number of records grew. In September 2003, the NRM government took a decision to begin the implementation of computerizing the land registry. The aim was to address the shortcomings of the manual system, restore the integrity of land registry, and ensure modernization of the operations to meet the needs of the growing economy.

Preliminary Actions That Have Been Taken
•    Re-organization of the Registry workspace and new shelving to improve records management, access, storage and security. The improved Registry workflow management has made Registrars more accessible to the Clients when necessary and backroom operations moved to the backroom.
•    Fencing and improved security on the outside
•    Reorganization of the strong rooms to create space for scanning operations
•    Dusting, sorting and records rehabilitation and reconsolidation
•    Verification of authenticity of land records
•    Reorganization of root titles
•    Introduction of biometric control to limit access of clients and unauthorised staff into the Registries.

Activities That Have Supported Computerization
•    Introduction of a telephone Help line to assist clients (0414-373511)
•    Initiating the recording of Land Agents
•    Developing a Clients Charter and Information Guide on the Ministry’s services
•    A re-designed ministry Website with online access to land transaction forms and other important information
•    Training in basic computerization, customer care and database management for Registry Staff
•    Establishment of a records centre for root titles and other important historical documents valuable for resolving land disputes
•    • Introduction of new Land Administration Procedures, including requirements to submit passport photographs, e-mail and telephone mobile contacts.


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