A new book edited by Sara Pantuliano, Uncharted Territory: Land, Conflict and Humanitarian Action (ODI and Practical Action, November 2009), breaks new ground in addressing the land dimension to crises, including Sudan. Land issues, particularly its access, ownership and use, are often central to understanding the dynamics of conflict and post-conflict settings, particularly in contexts of large scale displacement. The issues affect both the choice to return and the prospects for recovery, yet an understanding of these issues is minimal amongst the humanitarian community. Although there is a growing recognition of the importance of addressing land issues, assistance and programming rarely incorporate sufficient analysis of local land relations, instead focussing on the return and restitution despite the fact that these interventions are often inappropriate for the type of land issues involved. Through the expertise of longstanding academics and practitioners, this edited volume by the Humanitarian Policy Group attempts to bridge the humanitarian and land tenure divide to highlight their mutually important relationship and instigate a process that seeks to understand how Housing, Land and Property (HLP) issues can and should be practically incorporated into humanitarian responses in conflict and post-conflict situations. The book is divided into three parts: * Exploring […]
The Kenyan Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission (TJRC) is mandated to enquire into human rights violations, including community displacements, settlements, evictions, historical land injustices, and the illegal or irregular acquisition of land, especially as these relate to conflict or violence. access to land is often cited as one of the key structural causes of violence in Kenya. However, political figures have manipulated and misrepresented the ‘land issue’ in the country, to the extent that it often seems to be an excuse, rather than a valid grievance. How should the TJRC address the land issue, which is so easily instrumentalized and so deeply linked to problematic conceptions of ethnicity? In order to answer this question, we first have to ask: why is the land issue relevant today?
It is not often that participants in ethnic cleansing confess to it openly, but William ole Ntimama has managed it twice: in a 1996 interview, and more recently. The brazenness of the impunity is revolting: it is natural to want accountability and reform, and equally natural to think we can have both. This, unfortunately, is a bit of a farce: stable reform and calling the violent to account are incompatible.
Nineteen months have passed since Kenya’s contested 2007 election, when the rapid re-inauguration of President Mwai Kibaki heralded an outburst of post-election violence – characterised by targeted attacks on ethnic ‘others’, an overzealous state security response, and retaliatory attacks on ‘aggressor’ communities – which left over 1,000 people dead and more than 350,000 displaced. The violence ended in February 2008, when a coalition government was formed, but ‘deep peace’ remains elusive and reforms unlikely. What is left is only rhetoric differentiating this administration from post-Mau Mau amnesia and investigative committees without reforms, as after the ‘ethnic clashes’ of 1991-1993.
This forum offers a space where concerned Kenyans can come together with a range of experts, scholars, practitioners, and commentators to discuss fundamental questions about how Kenya got here, and the strategies necessary to move the country forward. This essay provides an overview of recent debates on violence and accountability in Kenya and summarizes the first set of contributions to this forum.
The AU Panel hearings witnessed some heated exchanges on the land issue including divergent interpretations of the traditional hakura system. One of these was in Zalingei. Dimingawi Fadul Seisi Mohamed Ateem, the most senior Fur chief in the historic province of Dar Diima, now known as the eastern localities of West Darfur State, spoke at length to the Panel. “We are Darfurians, we are true Africans.” He provided a history of how the war began in the late 1980s, and in many ways the discussions that followed showed how the conflict of twenty years ago was still unfinished business in the heartland of the Fur. “The civil war started in Chad and led to the displacement of citizens to my area. They came and never returned back home. Our customs and traditions are different from theirs, our values are different. The political parties did not all care about the misery of individuals, they were just addressing the political aspect, and ignoring the citizens.” “I represent all the eastern localities [of West Darfur]. I have been through it all. We sat and made agreements. I have a book, full of agreements, from 1989 onwards. I have all these agreements in writing. […]
Professor Mamdani in his Saviors and Survivors. Darfur, Politics and the War on Terror (NY: Pantheon Books, 2009) has written a powerful attack on the Save Darfur Coalition and the political climate and debate in America around the Darfur issue. In general, I find much to agree with in Mamdani’s analysis, illuminating as it does the self-interested motives of many of the actors involved and many levels of hypocrisy. There are similar debates in Europe, not least where I live in Norway which has been much involved in the Sudan, in some ways unreflectively. The middle third of the book presents an historical excursus on Darfur’s history under the sultans (c. 1650 to 1874 & 1898-1916), under the Mahdists (1883- 1898) and the British (1898-1956). Professor Martin Daly in two contributions to “Making Sense of Darfur” has already dealt with the numerous factual errors to be found here; I could add more, but see no real purpose in doing so. Rather, let me concentrate on one issue, land and how it is thought to be owned. Professor Mamdani throughout Saviors and Survivors rightly emphasises the importance of land issues in the internal conflict(s) in Darfur. Much of the discussion centres […]
Jeffrey Gettleman’s article in today’s New York Times, “Darfur Withers as Sudan Sells a Food Bonanza,” is an excellent overview of the issues surrounding food production and food relief. Excepting solely the current context of high international food prices, it could have been written at any time in the last thirty years. In the 1970s, Sudan sought to become the “breadbasket of the Middle East” even while it failed to tackle undernutrition in the provinces. The 1984 famine in western Sudan and the Red Sea Hills occurred while the Gedaref grain merchants exported food to the Middle East. Trains taking sorghum to Port Sudan to be shipped abroad passed relief convoys moving in the opposite direction, while the starving Beja—neglected in the early days of the relief effort—lined the roadside. Sudan recorded a record harvest in 1988, just as the Southern famine hit its nadir. And in 1990 there was a reprise of nationwide famine alongside food exports. Especially ironic, given the Islamist colour of the government, was the destination of some of the food exports—pig feed in Spain, Heineken production in Holland. And so it went on during the 1990s, albeit on a less egregious scale. Of course there […]
This post is also available in French (PDF, 96KB).
Land has often been described as a key motivation for the Arabs and non-Arabs who actively participated in the “Janjaweed” in Darfur and southeast Chad (see my article “Darfur: a Conflict for Land” in Alex de Waal (ed.), War in Darfur and the Search for Peace.) One of the primary traits of the Darfur crisis (like the Dar Sila crisis in Chad) can be described as a split between those members of the population with territories (hawakir) due to traditional, mainly pre-colonial land rights and those who have none – a split which is not exactly the same as the ethnic divisions between Arabs and non-Arabs that are so often presented without nuance.
Many thanks to Alex de Waal for posting my briefing on land issues in Sudan on his blog last month and for stimulating so many interesting contributions on such a critical topic. I have just returned from Juba where I have been carrying out research on the reintegration of IDPs and refugees returning to the South. The magnitude and the urgency of the land crisis in Juba are a further testimony to the centrality of the land question for the stability of Sudan. The briefing I prepared for SSRC was commissioned as a short, non-academic piece for policy makers, and it therefore does not explore the multiplicity of land issues in their full complexity. The paper only aims to highlight key issues and dynamics, outline possible scenarios and offer broad recommendations. I am glad that it has generated so many in-depth and insightful responses on this blog, though I cannot fail to note that the majority of contributions have been focused on Darfur. The resolution of the land question is critical throughout the country and it is taking an increasingly urgent dimension in the South as a result of the arrival of such large numbers of returnees. Of the various […]