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Contradictions of Consolidation, Puzzles of Resistance: Understanding the Politics of Land Tenure in Post-Conflict Uganda

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Type: Conference Paper
Author: Speight, Jeremy
Conference: Workshop on the Workshop 4
Location: Indiana University Bloomington
Conf. Date: June 3-6, 2009
Date: 2009
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/10535/969
Sector: Social Organization
Land Tenure & Use
Region: Africa
Subject(s): authority
democracy
state and local governance
land tenure and use
privatization
customary law
Abstract: "In Sub-Saharan Africa it has been suggested that government reliance on customary authority at local levels is inimical to democracy. Genuine democracy in Africa must address the undemocratic compulsions customary authorities are able to enforce as a result of their de facto control over land and labour. This paper examines the extent to which guerrilla movements are capable of altering existing patterns of authority and control over land use in Africa. While fighting a civil war, the NRA (National Resistance Army) in Uganda introduced democratic reforms to local government in territories under its control. After the war and in government, the NRM (National Resistance Movement) has introduced legislation that has sought to privatize land tenure in the south and elsewhere in Uganda. This paper argues that neither of these institutional reforms threatened the authority of Bugandan notables in Southern Uganda. Democratic reforms introduced during the war did not address the basis of customary authority in Buganda (land). While in government, the NRM has abandoned the alliance constructed with the southern peasantry established during the civil war. In order to entrench its position in government, attempts to privatize land have not only sought to attack customary authority but also to allow clients of the NRM from elsewhere in Uganda to 'legitimately' accumulate land in the south. As a result, defending customary authority over land allocation has become a means through which peasants in the south have safeguarded themselves against land dislocation. In this way, customary law has functioned as an institution around which resistance to authoritarianism and corruption has been based."

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