Governing Transition in Northern Uganda: Trust and Land

Start date
January 1, 2013
End date
December 31, 2018
Project code
Total grant
Contact person
Lotte Meinert

After decades of war and dislocation to IDP camps, people in Northern Uganda have now returned home. The transition is marred by a pervasive legacy of mistrust in institutions of governance, linked to camp experiences and conflict. This is particularly evident in relation to land; population has increased, the customary system of land entrustment has been disrupted and new borders must be negotiated. In one sub-county 30% of families report that they are currently in a land conflict. Sensitivities about land are further inflamed by fears of alienation linked to the new oil industry and large-scale commercial agriculture. Mistrust is exacerbated through interweaving land disputes and other conflicts that challenge both new and ‘old’ governance institutions. Mitigating these conflicts and building trust is crucial to preserving the fragile stability achieved after the civil war.
Our research examines links between land, trust/mistrust and governance with emphasis on gender and generation. We explore how differently positioned people manage, mitigate and engage conflicts in a setting of co-existing formal and parallel legal authorities. Case studies include: claims to land based on descent; women’s rights to land and security; individual and communal rights in relation to commercial interests; the discourses of traditional vs universal human rights in relation to property. We compare the bases of trust in clans, customary leadership, NGOs, religious organizations and government agencies. 


Midterm report 2017:

Land disputes after the aimed conflicts are of various kinds. Disputes between neighbours and kin are rampant in areas where people are resettling after displacement. Some of these tensions play out in relation to generation and gender. Conflicts over land between people and institutions, such as churches, schools, military, inflict problems in local communities. In areas close to national parks people and animals struggle over access to territories. National programs are promoting individual tenure and these changes are causing tensions. Educated elites may succeed in acquiring individual land, whereas older generations and the poorer tend to hold land collectively.

Trustland has produced knowledge about the management of land disputes, and the role of trust and governance during post-conflict transition. Land disputes are being managed though both formal institutions and courts and informally in families and clans. This double system appears to be an advantage, yet many disputes remain unresolved.