Land and conflict: a complicated relationship that could be avoided

Addis Ababa, 16 November 2016 (ECA) - During heated discussions on land grabbing, the participants at the 2017 Conference on Land Policy underlined the importance of clear laws that govern land in all the countries of the continent.

Estimates say that 90 percent of Africa’s land is still undocumented and this cause frequent land invasions in many parts of the continent and fuel conflicts in many communities.

Evidences show that disputes related to private sector land and natural resource investments in Africa began when communities were forced to leave their lands.

On one hand, you have African communities that have inhabited land for centuries but lack formal legal titles to their homes or to their pastoral lands; on another hand, there are governments selling land to wealthy elites and investors who want to put up hydropower plants, agro-industrial plantations, mining operations, and other large-scale projects.

“The governments, which are supposed to protect their citizens, and investors must find ways to address the concerns of local people”, said Abraham Ondieki Marita of Transparency International in Kenya. He added that that forced evictions that deny the affected communities the right to own property including land has increased dramatically over the past decade.

The Addis Ababa Land Conference discussed also about women who became victims of land grabbing after the death of their husbands.

A study by the International Justice Mission in Uganda showed that in some of the rural parts of Africa, 40 percent of widows come under attack after the death of the husbands, and one in three lose their home.

More than 50 percent of land grabbing cases are violent in nature” said via a video, Nina Assimwe of International Justice Mission.

Loss of property has calamitous consequences for a poor widow and her children.  According to the International Justice Mission study, in the year following the property grabbing event, 22.4 percent of the victims experienced the death of a dependent, 23.2 percent tested positive for HIV for the first time, and 43.6 had to rely on other people for food.

The Addis Ababa Conference experts called for a clear legal framework governing succession and recalled that the public must be educated on the land governing policies in place.


Issued by:

Communications Section
Economic Commission for Africa
PO Box 3001
Addis Ababa
Tel: +251 11 551 5826