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Land reform cited as key to issue in conflict management

Land distribution has been a leading cause of the armed conflicts in Burundi, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and Rwanda, according to a study by the Kenyan-based African Centre for Technology Studies (ACTS). "Contested rights to land and natural resources are significant, particularly in light of land scarcity in many areas and the frequency of population movements," ACTS said a statement on the study which is to be jointly published in December 2004 with the South African-based Institute for Security Studies. The report draws attention away from other, more frequently cited, sources of armed conflict in the region, which include competition over the extraction of raw minerals and the contested legitimacy of governments. The reports suggest that the conflicts in the region could only be fully resolved once problems of land distribution have been addressed. In Burundi, it said, "Inequitable access to land is one of several structural causes of conflict - contributing to poverty and grievances against the government and elite groups." It added: "Resolving land disputes especially those related to the return of refugees will be an essential part of peace-building. Landlessness stands at about 15 percent nationally, and the figure is 53 percent for the Twa, a marginalised minority group." At least 80 percent of rural households have less than 1.5 ha of land. Massive displacement is a cause of further land problems, including, "Illegal appropriation of land". During the war in the DRC, pre-existing land problems allowed rebel leaders to turn "land into an asset to be distributed among its members" as well as other "local, national and regional actors to strengthen their control over territory". According to a policy brief on the study, "Land has turned from a 'source' of conflict into a 'resource' of conflict". The authors of the study recommend that a commission on land ownership be established "to analyse the dynamics of land access nationwide". In Rwanda and according to the ACTS policy brief, the government has already drafted a new land reform policy, but "its implementation will involve a number of challenges and risks". Therefore, the report said, "it should be piloted in limited areas, and the results monitored before being applied more widely". The study found that representatives of the society, which are often marginalised need to be given more of a say in land distribution decisions. The ACTS summary of the reports: Rwanda pdf Format DRC pdf Format Burundi pdf Format

This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions

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