Mailo Land Tenure System

Mailo Land Tenure System in Uganda: The Indefinite Ownership of Land

The Mailo Land Tenure System is where land is registered and owned in eternity or perpetuity with its holder having a land title for it. This land tenure in Uganda has its basis from the allocation of land pursuant to the 1900 Uganda Agreement, subject to legislative qualifications. Land in Uganda held under mailo tenure is mainly confined to the Central region of Uganda. The system confers freehold granted by the colonial government in exchange for political co-operation under the 1900 Buganda Agreement.

Essentially feudal in character, the mailo tenure system recognizes occupancy by tenants (locally known as Kibanja holders), whose relationship with their overlords or land lords is governed and guided by the provisions of the Land Act. 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.

Mailo land tenure system also has features of freehold system. Here, land held under mailo tenure (about 9000 square miles) is confined to Buganda (central Uganda) and Bunyoro (western Uganda). The British colonialists allocated mile-square blocks of land to Baganda notables in exchange for political cooperation.

At present, there are no more new titles issued for land administered under Mailo tenure since all titles were issued before 1928. What is being done today is a mere further subdivision of the already existing titles issued prior to 1928 plus changing the names on the titles during to new ownership. Within the process of subdivision and that of transfer of ownership, both the applicant and the transferring land owner fill application forms with the zonal office of ministry of lands in their area. They then wait for the zonal office to accomplish the rest of the entire process.

Mailo Land tenure is mainly in Buganda, with some few portions of it parts of Ankole, Tooro sub-regions and Bunyoro among others. At present, there over 250,000 of Mailo Land title holders in Uganda courtesy of a majority having bought or inherited it.

Acquiring a Mailo Land Tenure Title

The process of acquiring a certificate of Mailo land title is done legally. Under Mailo Land, there are no new titles being offered but instead old titles are either being subdivided or transferred into the names of new owners.

In order to have a land title subdivided or transferred, one must get the plot and the block number of that particular land and present it to the Registry of Titles who will ratify that it is registered.

The buyer

The buyer picks and fills applications form from the Land Commission and returns it to the commission. When filling forms, one must indicate clearly that it is either subdivision or transfer.

The seller

The same time, the owner from whom the land is being bough fills in a transfer form together with consent forms.

Land Surveying

Subsequently the land survey is done and the ministry completes the course by filling and issuing a mutation form.

Getting the Land Title

When the process is done, the ministry offers you your title that is either segmented off an current one or an old title being fully changed into the new owners names. 

Eligibility for the Mailo Land Title Status

Only Ugandan citizens are eligible for the mailo land tenure system. The rest of the property owners in Uganda should be under the leasehold Land Tenure System. The following people or institutions can offer a lease to any non-Ugandan to own land in Uganda:-

  • An Individual Mailo land owner can offer a lease to a foreigner
  • A local authority or government body is eligible to lease to a foreigner.
  • Buganda Land Board (BLD), a body in charge of Kabaka land in Buganda can lease to foreigner or a Ugandan for a given period of time usually 49 years.
  • For a company owned by foreigners can only own mailo land in Uganda if that firm is registered in with a Ugandan having a majority shares in it say 51% shares. And the foreigners holding 49% shares. These should be non-transferable shares for the mailo land status to remain considered.

Other Land Tenure Systems in Uganda

Besides mailo land tenure, there are other land tenure systems in Uganda which include freehold tenure, leasehold tenure and customary tenure system under which Ugandans or foreigners can own and use land in Uganda.