Adventino Banjwa is a Ugandan, living in Kampala. He is currently in his third year as a PhD Fellow at the Makerere Institute of Social Research (MISR), of Makerere University in Kampala, Uganda. He has a MSc Degree in Development Studies (2017, Lund University, Lund-Sweden) and a Bachelor of Development Studies (2013, Makerere University, Kampala-Uganda). His research interests broadly revolve around issues of development and the state, colonialism, post-colonialism, and decolonization.
Land for Development? Compulsory Land Acquisition in Uganda and the Dilemmas of Land Reforms in a Post-colonial Neo-liberal Context
The land question in Uganda has recently been galvanized by the government’s proposals on Compulsory Land Acquisition (CLA). In these proposals, the government claims it needs ‘land for development’. Critiques against this programme have concentrated on what should be done before compulsorily acquiring people’s land, such as ensuring prior and adequate compensation, guaranteeing land rights of women and children and ensuring proper functionality of district land boards. What is taken for granted is the idea that the Ugandan state actually needs ‘land for development’. By not questioning this official claim, discourse on CLA in Uganda has upheld the assumptions underlying the idea of the state needing ‘land for development’, including the implicit self-description of the state as ‘developmental’, and the idea that land is needed to advance ‘public good’. This paper is a preliminary critical engagement with the claim that the state in Uganda needs ‘land for development’. It does so by raising the question of the form of state prevailing in Uganda today, and the nature of ‘development’ that is sought for in the drive to forcefully obtain people’s land. If, as literature on the state in Africa indicates, the 1980s’ neoliberal turn fundamentally altered the form of the state in Africa and Uganda in particular, the central question pursued in this paper relates to the implications of reforms on land conducted by a post-colonial neoliberal state. What kind of ‘development’ does this state pursues on lands it compulsorily acquires from citizens? The paper critically reviews some past cases of compulsorily acquired land in Uganda in the post-1980s period to ascertain the kind of ‘development’ the state pursued on such lands from which many were oftentimes forcefully evicted. If the idea of ‘land for development’ has resulted into a coupling of a regime of forced land acquisition with the notion of a state-driven development; I argue that today we need to decouple them in order to allow for a historically and a contextually informed query on the implications of land reforms in a post-colonial neoliberal context.
Affiliation: Makerere University