Accepted paper:

In search of urban property in the DRC: From being displaced to becoming a citizen


Carolien Jacobs (Leiden University)

Paper short abstract:

This paper explores housing arrangements that are accessible to internally displaced people living in urban host communities in the east of the Congo. It analyses how people secure property, the challenges they face in doing so, and the impact of securing property on their identity in the city.

Paper long abstract:

Due to prolonged armed conflicts many people are displaced in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo. Three out of four internally displaced people (IDPs) seek refuge in host communities, such as urban centres. Upon arrival, the first concern of displaced is to find shelter. Based on a two-year qualitative research project carried out in Bukavu, DRC, this paper firstly explores the main strategies used by IDPs to find secure shelter, depending on the assets they can avail of. The paper argues that obtaining real property is not only a way to improve one's living conditions and security. Ownership also serves as a marker for one's identity and sense of belonging. But whereas many IDPs aspire to become residents of the city, many of the longer-term residents paradoxically cultivate their ties with the rural areas from where their ancestors originate. Secondly, the paper analyses some of the challenges people face when claiming their ownership rights. These challenges are often related to the context of fragility in which ownership transactions take place and that result in contested claims over property. Many people, and especially IDPs, have difficulties in finding a solution that is enforced and accepted by all parties involved. The state contributes to this tenure insecurity. Facilitating tenure security could contribute to the empowerment of this group of people.

panel P204
Urban property disputes in fragile and transitional settings in Africa