Traditionary in Buganda, there existed a class of rights over Land known as Obwesengeze which were Individual hereditary rights
According to available records, ‘these are claims based either on long occupational one particular holding confirmed by the King or an origin grant of one holding or one small estate to an individual chief or by the peasant himself.’
Both chief and peasants who had some access to the King availed themselves of the same opportunity to have a permanent claim to one particular piece of land recognized.
These ebibanja ebyo’bwesengeze were generally small but were regarded as very valuable as they were inheritable.
It was for the confirmation of these personal claims that the Kabaka would send a special messenger to plant a bark cloth tree upon the land granted.
This was an open and public act and is of interest as being the equivalent of the old feudal practice of “feoffment with livery of seisin”or by which a twig or clod of earth was in presence of witnesses handed to the grantee.
During this time, land was of no intrinsic value and the idea of the chief disposing of his land for profit was absurd.
Land was a source of power and wealth of a great chief. This was measured instead in terms of the number and services of the peasants he could induce to settle upon his land.
Over these peasants he had indeed the power of life and death.
He was entrusted with the administration of justice in his area and the collection of taxation of which he usually had the right to retain a certain percentage for himself.
He had a traditional right to expect a tribute of beer and food from the peasants and to call upon them to work for him upon the construction and maintenance of roads and ultimately his power depended upon his right to call upon the peasants to fight for him or Sabattaka in time of war or civil disorder.
The 1900 Buganda Agreement distorted all this arrangement. Subsequent legislation of 1928, The Busulu and Envujjo law similarly obliterated this.
This is no longer applicable in all forms now. However, all land now has great intrinsic value. Peasants have purchased plots of land from bibanja holders who are on the ground.
The land lords who have title now do not possess power of life and death over peasants. They are neither entrusted with the administration of justice nor collection of taxes. They cannot summon peasants to work on their farms or roads.
The responsibility is with the government of the day which must reverse this trend.
The president through his wise leadership and counsel has entrusted Bamugemerire Commission to correct land disparities and this is one of them.
There is no system of land tenure which a government can efficiently manage and operate unless it has the full support and cooperation of the community.
It is my humble submission therefore, that Lord Justice Bamugemerire Commission should examine fully land tenure system in Buganda before the 1900 Buganda Agreement and try not only to level the ground but craft mitigating overlapping factors.