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Mengo’s Kiwalabye speaks on Kabaka’s land, Nabagereka P/S, Tamale Mirundi

Kiwalabye Male (R) during the interview

Over the last 20 years, KIWALABYE MALE, the chief executive officer of Buganda Land Board (BLB), has served Buganda kingdom in various capacities notably as CEO of BUCADEF, and royal treasurer. Kiwalabye recently spoke to Deo Walusimbi about his management of Buganda’s land. 

What is the difference between the land being managed by Buganda Land Board and Kabaka’s land?

Statutorily, all land that was returned to Kabaka by virtue of the 1993 act is under management of Buganda Land Board…and the land returned in 2013 by MOU [between the central government and Mengo].

However, with the recent changes in the institution, whereby there has been segregation between land and property management, BLB manages all kingdom’s land, but doesn’t manage the buildings on there and that is the difference.

So, what constitutes Kabaka’s land?

There is private land belonging to Kabaka as a person which people normally confuse with that of Buganda, but Kabaka’s land is under custodianship of the royal treasury. But for us, we manage that land where Ronald Mutebi is appearing as Kabaka.

It’s almost a song by every Muganda to demand Buganda’s 9,000 square miles from government. May I know their boundaries?

Those 9,000 miles come from the famous 1900 agreement where land was distributed by the British in various categories to chiefs, institutions, the kingdom, etc. But those 9,000 miles don’t include the administrative units like counties, forests, swamps and wetlands.

When Buganda was getting its independence in 1962, the Duke then returned what belonged to Buganda and they set up BLB by an act of Parliament to run what was popularized as 9,000 miles. But when the constitution was abrogated in 1967, the Kabaka was overthrown and all that land became public land –  including land which belonged to Kabaka.

Can you estimate how much land was returned by the MOU vis-à-vis the land still in the hands of government?

That MOU virtually returns a big part of Buganda’s land because when you read it, it says, all that land confiscated by former regimes is hereby returned to Buganda and what remains is to segregate.

We have not received titles for most of this land; we have just received 123, but the way the land law works, even if I don’t have a title but a notice has been given and there is an instrument, that land belongs to the Kabaka; because even now we are still receiving titles on the 350 square miles which was returned in 1993… 

How are you as BLB planning to develop Buganda land now under your control?

Our mandate changed. In the past, BLB had the mandate to manage and develop the land; that is why Muganzilwazza building in Katwe was built. But with the restructuring of the kingdom, BLB cannot put up such a building anymore because it was made to function like Uganda Land Commission; we are custodians of land.

We can plan for it, yes, but we [then] attract various developers. Now (of course) there are other bodies like Buganda Investments and Commercial Investments Ltd, and Namulondo Investments, which is a property management entity and any other body the kingdom would wish.

Who issued that moratorium against you and what motivated it?

I think it was realigning various institutions of the kingdom because in the past, there was only BLB. But now with the new system headed by katikkiro [Peter Mayiga], they sat as cabinet, they [focused] on what we did best and I think they said, BLB has strategically placed itself in land management.

Since those various roles were taken away, you can now find BLB in Kabula, Kalangala, Ssese, Buvuma, etc because I have moved on to concentrate on what I can do best which is land management.

Don’t you feel as BLB’s head, your wings clipped by the new system?

Not at all because even what they took from us is still on land; how would you have a building without negotiating with BLB? They only, strategically, just put things in the right direction.

People often accuse BLB of unreliability through introducing various ways of how one becomes a bona fide occupant on  land belonging to the Kabaka, citing an example of KK. This company was contracted by the kingdom to register tenants in Kampala at Shs 820,000 per plot, but you are now re-doing the exercise under a different (ebbaluwa entongole) arrangement. What is going on?

Actually, BLB is one of the most reliable land bodies in the country and we have got an award from Uganda Land Alliance for excelling in sensitizing people about land issues. 

For somebody to be a bona fide occupant on land, it’s not courtesy of BLB, but it’s by law. So, there is no way BLB can come and say you are not bona fide. [But] Land is about wealth, value. So, you can’t say, you have something valuable without any documentation for it. 

So, our vision as BLB is to ensure that people secure their tenancy. It doesn’t mean that they don’t have it now, but it’s not secure without documentation. We are not changing positions; we are, through companies like KK, only helping people to secure their tenancy.

But KK  was accused of defrauding people!

KK was a good idea which was abused. I think the kingdom got the right gun and gave it to a mad man because it gave it to a wrong person, I participated in the pre-talks (with KK) because I was the royal treasurer then, but before it was concluded, I went for further studies in UK.

But one of the things I had recommended was that these [KK] people should never be allowed to touch people’s money; they should only do the consultancy work. But when some of us left, the controllers of the institution gave them  [KK] a blank cheque and they even stopped people from paying money to BLB.

They [KK] set up an office in Kabaka Anjagala and got agents in Mengo who were telling people that there is no business in Mengo, go to KK. So, these people lost interest in organising people on Kabaka’s land yet the principal idea was to identify people on Kabaka’s land.

You cannot set up an agency to work on Kabaka’s land and cut out the principal agent (BLB) who has got the specialty to oversee the land and let the [agency] report to katikkiro’s office. With all due respect, I know Owek. [Dan] Muliika would not like this, but that was a mistake.

Who owns this KK?

The man died sometime back…he was called Mr Kabuye and he was staying abroad; but he had children who are managing it.

So, what did you do about KK?

When I came back, I participated in the process of cancellation of that exercise and said let them take money meant to be a processing fee, but give us the information. And they failed in both providing the information and passing on the money.

So, you make tenants registered by KK to repay for the same?

We terminated everything and gave people time and whoever had paid money to KK with receipt should give us fresh papers and we never asked for a shilling from those people KK registered.

So, whoever registered with KK and came to BLB has a file with us and that was taking responsibility as a kingdom –  that a mistake had been made, but these are Kabaka’s subjects. However, we are carrying on with registration because in land economics, land without a title has no value.

If you want to realise this, wait when government [wants to build a road through your untitled plot]. However beautiful house you have put on it, they will tell you to go to the landlord.

That is why we are telling our people that this is good for you and that is why we did it in Nansana under a different arrangement with a special survey scheme for Shs 650,000. It’s all intended to ensure that these people have got security of tenure… thus introduction of [ebbaluwa entongole].

What steps are you taking to curb fraud amongst BLB staff?

We have zero tolerance for such malpractices and there are many staff we have terminated in some of these cases. There is a fresh case of somebody who has even gone to police where one of [our] staff took over his kibanja and built a house.

So, we terminated that staff and we supported this old man to prosecute him. The problem is that people have made corruption part of their life and they think that they can’t get a service without paying money. That is why some complain that Kiwalabye is one of the hardest people to see in Mengo because I don’t believe in that style of work.

Sometime, people make allegations without evidence; but if anybody has evidence against any staff, they should come forward.

Another problem is that some of our staff give an impression that they bring money to us [the heads] because some of our names feature out there. But why would you pay money if the property is rightfully yours? 

We have got a whistle- blowers’ line which is free, and we are putting in place various mechanisms to combat [fraud]. 

Talking about the katikkiro and the restructuring of the system on the start of his reign, how are you finding it working with a man who is rumoured to be extremely strict?

I have worked with katikkiro for a long time in various capacities. So really, I have no problem working with him.

What he stands for is what the kingdom stands for and katikkiro works in Kabaka’s [name]. If I have a problem working with the Katikkkiro, it means I have a problem working with the Kabaka. 

When he says ‘be accountable’, how can that be a problem? If he says ‘be customer-responsive’ –  and he keeps on writing these letters. As somebody who is progressive, I must follow and I am part of the key stakeholders because this revolution is for us because I have a background of Nkobazambogo.

He is very tight on what he wants, and the good thing is that I am also tight on my staff.

So, have you now dropped your ambitions to join politics in Kiboga?

I offered myself to serve Kabaka. The positions I have held in the kingdom, it is not a matter of myself wishing to go because I have gone from the lowest to the highest level.

So, it’s not a simple matter to leave this higher position to go for a constituency in Kiboga. I know there have been pressures from Kiboga people [although] I am from Mityana; [but] wishing is one thing and going is another. Most importantly, I have not talked to the people who are supposed to clear me. So, I am not standing anywhere and when time comes to serve the country, I will.

As BLB, you are in position to know how Nabagereka primary school was demolished; would you like to tell us?

Nabagereka P/S is not a kingdom school, but it was built by government after Lubiri had been taken over by the army. There were two schools, but the people couldn’t access the military barracks and government looked for land and maintained the name.

Fortunately or unfortunately, they put them on Buganda land. What people don’t know is that in 2006, a private developer called Boost Investments approached Uganda Land Commission which was now the controlling authority of that land.

ULC leased out those plots [housing Nabagereka P/S] to Boost Investments under minute 13/2006 A485 of Uganda Land Commission. We told them that ‘you are leasing out our land’ and then Boost approached BLB to be regularized within the law.

It surrendered the lease it had with ULC for a conditional lease of surrender. So, BLB simply regularised the lease and if [ULC] says it never leased the school, then we don’t know what it means unless its shows you when it refunded the developer’s money.

So, Buganda kingdom has got nothing to do with the demolition of Nabagereka P/S and many cases will appear like that with the returned land because [land] had already been given away.

How far have you gone with surveying the returned land?

We have recovered about eight square miles, but it’s a big exercise because you have to open the boundaries and do proper survey and identify who are there…

What do you make of continuous attacks by Tamale Mirundi?

Who is he?

He is a presidential spokesperson.

Maybe you know his job description, for me, I don’t. I can’t talk about him because if you tell me that he is a spokesman for the president and he is speaking for me, then I really wonder.

But I have not listened to him. I just hear people talking about it, but practically, I am somebody who wants to listen to what adds value and I want to listen to somebody who has got a trail of what we can talk about.

But BLB has got a feedback system, whether negative or positive, without waiting for people who we don’t know whether they are speaking under the influence of anything. 

What challenges have you encountered while serving this kingdom? 

They are quite enormous. There is a feeling that the kingdom is us and whatever we say is what goes on. That is a challenge because you get [a lot of] resistance on the way. There are those who think that if they can be able to put you down, they have won the whole battle; but we ignore them as I have told you [regarding] Tamale Mirundi. 

The institution has no resources, but I have no one to blame because I am supposed to participate in creating resources for this kingdom. [There is also a tendency] by some people who want to discuss land matters when they have little kind of information; it is a challenge. And then the workload, but we are training people in terms of work culture, and capacity. And of course, lastly, people on Kabaka’s land don’t want to meet their obligations; they think that waving to the Kabaka is enough…

Some of your critics claim you are part of a Mengo clique which pulls down whoever initiates new systems.

Who has come here and has been thrown out, courtesy of us?

They cite Owek Muliika whose reign hardly lasted a year.

Which systems did he [Muliika] introduce? Let him print a copy of systems he produced to people. That is the biggest mistake people make; when they come to serve here, they think that the kingdom has started with them.

They think whoever has been in Mengo is foolish and has just been making mistakes and now with them the Kabaka has chosen a wise group to come and prevail on foolish ones.

No! Whoever is brought on board is brought to add value.  The person they allege is Owek. Muliika, but I never worked with him; I came back from studies when he was on his way out because he didn’t last for one year.

I don’t think there is anybody who has brought strict systems here like Owek. Mayiga. Why is it that he is going [into] his third year with us?

 

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