Accepted Paper:

Informal land dispute resolution and tenure security: a case study in a low-income settlement in Kampala  


Jordan Finke (IHS - Institute for Housing and Urban Development Studies)

Paper Short Abstract:

This paper examines how informal land dispute resolution in a Kampala settlement influences tenure security for low-income residents. Findings highlight the advantages of informal land dispute resolution but reveal how the mechanism can influence tenure security in both positive and negative ways.

Paper long abstract:

The projected rapid population growth in African cities over the next several decades will lead to increased competition for access to urban and peri-urban land, which in turn may contribute to increased land disputes. Dispute resolution will likely be a key challenge going forward for land administration systems in African nations to prevent disputes from escalating into full-blown conflict.

In countries with multiple and overlapping forums of justice individuals can engage in "forum-shopping" among a range of formal and informal dispute resolution mechanisms in an effort to resolve land disputes. Informal dispute resolution has previously been observed to have certain advantages over more formal mechanisms, including lower cost, simplified procedures, less incidences of corruption, and a more participatory, consensual approach to justice.

Using a settlement in Kampala, Uganda as a case study, this paper examines how informal land dispute resolution influences tenure security for low-income residents.

The findings show that informal land dispute resolution indeed carries certain advantages for low-income residents. In addition, the unique dual-role played by Local Council Court 1 chairmen in both land transactions and land dispute resolution contributes to greater perceived tenure security for residents. However, the prioritization of community and family harmony by the Local Council Court 1 at times makes certain residents' tenure less secure.

This research can contribute to ongoing public dialogues among policymakers, civil society actors and others regarding how and whether informal mechanisms of dispute resolution can or should be promoted and strengthened in rapidly-urbanising cities in the Global South.

Panel K1
African urban land markets and spatial justice