Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | The government is proposing a jail term of seven years for anyone found guilty of evicting a widow, widower, orphans and other lineal descendants from a home, in case of the death of a spouse.
The jail term is suggested in the new Succession Amendment Bill which was re-tabled before Parliament and signed by Attorney General Kiryowa Kiwanuka.
The Bill was first presented in 2018 by a private member Rosette Mutambi Kajungu, the former Mbarara Woman MP, and passed in April 2021 by the tenth parliament. But President Yoweri Museveni returned it to parliament and asked for the reconsideration of a new agreement for sharing property where a spouse dies without a will.
Parliament had then provided that where a person who dies without a will is survived by the spouse and a dependent relative but no lineage dependents, the spouse shall receive 80 percent of the whole property of an intestate, while the dependent relative shall receive the remaining 20 percent.
However, President Museveni said that the provision was a complete departure from earlier provisions of the law and had no clear justification. Museveni argued that the provision would be unfair to dependent relatives and also create disharmony between the surviving spouse and the deceased’s relatives. He proposed that the widow or widower receive 50 percent of the estate, dependent relatives 49 percent of the estate and the customary heir takes one percent of the estate.
The president also criticized a clause that sought to provide that the surviving spouse of the intestate shall not take any interest in the estate if the marriage between them was suspended either by agreement or judicial officer. He proposed that this clause is deleted because it is ambiguous.
But the new bill introduces a clause that proposes that a person who evicts or attempts to evict a lawful occupant of the residential holding commits an offence and is liable to a fine not exceeding 168 currency points (3.36 million Shillings) or imprisonment not exceeding seven years or both.
If passed into law and assented to by the President, the piece of legislation will help end injustices that widows and orphans face after the demise of a spouse from greedy relatives evicting them from homes.
The Constitutional Court in the case of Law Advocacy for Women in Uganda Versus Attorney General declared provisions of the Succession Act, 1906 relating to the distribution of estates of intestate persons unconstitutional and discriminatory against the female.
The Principal Act provides that a widow ceases to occupy the principal residential property when she remarries but the Act is silent on widowers who remarry. This Court ruling caused a lacuna in the law which the government is seeking to cure in the new Bill.
According to Deputy Attorney General Jackson Kafuuzi, the proposed Bill seeks to address the disparity and also provide for the rights of women and equality between spouses in the distribution of property.