A Long Time Gone: Post-conflict Rural Property Restitution under Customary Law

Citation:

Joireman, Sandra F., and Laura S. Meitzner Yoder. 2016. “A Long Time Gone: Post-Conflict Rural Property Restitution under Customary Law.” Development and Change 47 (3): 563–85. doi:10.1111/dech.12236.

Authors: Sandra F. Joireman, Laura S. Meitzner Yoder

Abstract:

Mass displacement of people due to violence poses a unique set of challenges for property restitution when people return to their homes after a long absence. This is particularly evident in rural areas where the dominant form of land holding is customary tenure. Violence-induced displacement, unlike voluntary migration, challenges both customary and public legal-administrative structures. The lack of written documentation of customary holdings and the importance of the support of community leaders means that incorporating returnees back into a community can be easier for those who choose to return, while reclaiming property without physical return is nearly impossible. This article seeks to make three contributions: 1) to note the diversity of return processes after long displacements in terms of timing and demographics; 2) to demonstrate that the nature of the claims people can make on customary tenure systems is at odds with international legal norms on property restitution after displacement; and 3) to introduce a set of observations and questions on how conflict can change customary law. The article is based on fieldwork conducted in Uganda, Liberia and Timor-Leste, all countries with extended displacement where most of the rural land is held via customary claims.

Topics: Displacement & Migration, Forced Migration, Gender, Women, Gender Mainstreaming, Land grabbing, Political Participation, Post-Conflict Regions: Africa, East Africa, West Africa, Oceania Countries: Liberia, Timor-Leste, Uganda

Year: 2016

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