Governing Transition in Northern Uganda: Trust and Land


Start date: 1 January, 2013 End date: 13 January, 2020 Project type: Larger strategic projects (prior to 2013) Project code: 12-056AU Countries: Uganda Thematic areas: Conflict, peace and security, State building, governance and civil society, Lead institution: Aarhus University (AU), Denmark Partner institutions: Gulu University (GU), Uganda University of Copenhagen (UCPH), Denmark Project website: go to website (the site might be inactive) Project coordinator: Lotte Meinert Total grant: 10,085,188 DKK

Project summary

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.


Project completion report:

Land disputes after the armed 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. Through the TrustLand project IPSS researchers at Gulu University have gained research competence in the areas of land conflicts and are now better equipped to help manage and negotiate land issues.

Brief popularized abstract:

Most of the land in northern Uganda is managed through clans - from one generation to the next and through marriage - but national programs are now promoting individual ownership. Educated elites may succeed in acquiring individual land titles, whereas older generations and poorer people often lose out with the individualization of land. This creates tensions and disputes. These disputes are being managed through both formal institutions and courts and informally in families and clans.

TrustLand has created knowledge about management of land disputes, trust and governance in the transition period after the war. Land disputes are of various kinds: 1. Disputes between neighbors and kin have been common in areas where people are resettling. Some of these tensions play out in relation to gender and generation. 2. Conflicts over land between individuals and institutions, such as schools inflict problems in local communities. 3. In areas close to national parks, people and animals struggle over access to territories. Fewer people get married after the war and this causes problems for future generations’ access to land. This has led us to a new research idea focusing on changes in marriage and partnership patterns and the consequences of these changes for future generations and ideas about gender.


Go back to all projects