WAY back in 1991, the then President of Tanzania, Alhaj Ali Hassan Mwinyi, seeking solutions to the many land problems that were afflicting the country, set up a Presidential Commission of Inquiry into Land Matters, under the Chairmanship of Professor Issa Gulamhussein Shivji, to advise the Government on the way forward.
Recently Ugandan President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni set up a seven member Commission of Inquiry to probe into Land Matters that have become highly controversial in the country. It is expected to inquire into the effectiveness of law, policies and processes of land acquisition, administration, management and registration in Uganda.
It is also investigating the management of wetlands, forests and wildlife reserves as well as inquiring into the role of traditional, cultural and religious institutions ‘who’ own large chunks of land, and how they relate with occupants.
The Commission, under the Chairmanship of Justice CB has begun its investigations and has observed some worrying ‘trend’ where well-placed individuals are involved in land grabbing and unlawful eviction leaving people homeless”.
All this is reported in the New Vision newspaper of 9 November (page 12) under a news item titled: “CB ‘bigins’ probe into land matters in Ankole”. Let us take a pause and address at least two language issues. One, it clear that the writer wanted to say: “the Commission begins probe”, not “begins probe”. It has observed “some worrying trends”, not “some worrying trend”.
Two, that it will be “inquiring into the role of traditional, cultural and religious institutions ‘who’ own large chunks of land, and how they relate with occupants” is flawed. Institutions are not human beings so the pronoun that befits them in these circumstances is “which”, not “who”.
My re-write would be: “The Commission will be inquiring into the role of traditional, cultural and religious institutions, ‘which’ own large chunks of land, and how they relate with the occupants of this land”. Among the issues being dealt with by the Commission is the one reported on page 10 of the “Vision” titled: “Tycoon AA arrested over land”. “AA’s troubles are linked to a chunk of land in Bukoba, Mubende District, where he has a sugarcane plantation, and reportedly chased away residents in a violent encounter”.
In this encounter and others before this one, property has been destroyed and in some cases, death has occurred. You possibly thought that there was only one Bukoba in the world, and that it is in Tanzania, and which has been in the news recently. You now know that there is another Bukoba in Mubende, Uganda, and there are possibly other Bukobas in the World.
Like the Mubende one, the Tanzanian Bukoba, is the home of a large sugarcane plantation known as Kagera Sugar Estates. The Bukoba- Mubende tycoon had been ordered by the Commission to stop any activities of evicting occupiers (I prefer “evicting” to “chasing away”) from the land he claimed to be his, but he had ignored the order, thus his arrest.
In Jinja, the Commission was informed of a situation which the “Vision” titled as “Land Grabbers threatened the existence of Jinja School”, where teachers are reported to be particularly concerned about the future of the school after a survey and demarcation exercise by the Municipality in August, indicated that some classrooms, library, staff quarters, a latrine and part of the playground were outside the school”.
“The School Headmistress, CB said, though she had earlier asked for ‘opening’ of the school boundaries to avert land grabbing, when the surveyors went for the exercise, they were never notified, while mark-stones were planted at night”. “Opening of the school boundaries to avoid land grabbing” seems odd to me.
Besides, what the writer calls “mark stones” are generally known as “beacons” in the land surveying profession.
My re-write of the sentence is as follows: “The School Headmistress, CB, said that though she had earlier asked for ‘the surveying’ of the school boundaries to avert land grabbing, when the surveyors went for the exercise, the school authorities were never notified and the survey beacons were planted at night”.