Land and Corruption in Africa in 3 Topics

du 17/07/2019 au 07/08/2019
  • Forced Evictions as a form of Land Corruption and its Impact on Women’s Land Rights: Case of Kenya and Uganda
  • Analysis of Alternative Dispute Resolution systems in addressing Land Corruption: Case of Kenya and Ghana
  • The Role of Traditional Leaders in Customary Land Administration: Case of Ghana and Zambia

Corruption in land governance has gained growing attention in recent years.  National Chapters (NCs) of Transparency International (TI), under the project Land & Corruption in Africa (LCA) work to increase awareness and acknowledgement of land corruption in the national land policy and governance discourse.  TI NCs identified three subjects on land governance that directly affect local communities. The subjects are described are not limited to the countries’ cases, so the contribution collected might contribute to improve the land governance across Africa.

Forced Evictions as a form of Land Corruption and its Impact on Women’s Land Rights

In Kenya, the practice of forced evictions is a growing national problem that threatens lives and livelihoods especially of the most vulnerable and marginalized members of the society including the urban poor, slum dwellers, persons living with disability, minorities and indigenous groups, women, children and the elderly. Forced evictions have been carried out under the pretext of forest conservation, development projects, and slum upgrading projects. The massive eviction of residents of the Kibera informal settlement in southwest Nairobi, Kenya (one of the poorest communities of Kenya) to pave way for road construction in July 2018 left more than 30,000 people homeless and rendered 2,000 children without schooling.

The situation is similar in Uganda, where the significance of land cannot be gainsaid. The emerging development opportunities by the government characterised by discovery of oil and gas reserves, e – revolution, globalization and economic integration, among others[1] entail projects that require huge amounts of land which the government has and is still acquiring.  This makes land highly attractive to both investors and land speculators. The unprecedented new interest, coupled with the relative ease of persons with financial resources to easily obtain a land title or rights over land, has led to a scramble for land resulting into increased land grabbing, unlawful illegal evictions, fraudulent and or irregularities in land acquisition processes, unfair compensation, leading to loss of livelihoods, family breakdown, loss of inheritance rights, opportunity for corruption of public officials and abuse of community rights. This has greatly eroded the public confidence in land administration.

Analysis of Alternative Dispute Resolution systems in addressing Land Corruption

The Constitution of Kenya 2010 recognises access to justice for all as a fundamental right that all persons are entitled to and obliges the State to not only respect and protect, but also promote its realization in the fullest sense.  Notably, the law identifies access to justice as a core element of achieving social justice in the country. To enhance access to justice, the government enacted the Legal Aid Act 2016  to facilitate the provision of legal aid to the poor. Besides the Act, there also exists the National Action Plan on Legal Aid (2017-2022)  whose main underlying spirit is ‘Towards access to justice for all in Kenya.’ This provides an opportunity to seek recourse to land dispute cases, and more specifically, land corruption related cases. It is instructive to note that the Constitution now recognises and promotes the use of Alternative Dispute Resolution in settling disputes, land being one of them. There is a need to strengthen the capacity of various institutions of governance to deal with the pervasive problem of corruption, to enhance public confidence in their ability to play their part in combating the vice.

In Ghana, access to justice is enshrined in various provisions of the 1992 Constitution. Article 12 demands from all absolute respect to uphold the fundamental human rights and freedoms as enshrined in the supreme law of the land. A major obstacle in accessing justice in Ghana is the lack of an efficient and fully-functional court system, with few poorly resourced courts to provide efficient services to all. Moreover, there are too many protracted land cases in courts where it takes between three to five years minimum and between eight to fifteen years maximum, to successfully resolve land disputes in court. The situation has also been characterized by high risks of corruption, abuse of human rights and justice. Consequently, most Ghanaians prefer using approved and unapproved alternative means of dispute resolution mechanisms rather than the formal court systems.

The Role of Traditional Leaders in Customary Land Administration

In Ghana, corruption in customary land transactions is found to be most likely to occur at the instances when land is allocated by traditional leaders and registered by government institutions. Moreover, private investors have a considerable effect on increasing land prices and the amounts of symbolic drinks and kola nut payments. This has a negative impact on community members by limiting their access to land and title registration services with chiefs, which often results in conflict. Nonetheless, investors are also found to be at a disadvantage in land allocation processes, due to the vagueness and uncertainty of the dual land system.

In Zambia, the overlap of authority in land institutions leaves the system vulnerable to corruption, especially during the conversion process of customary land to statutory leasehold title. Multiple institutions governing this conversion process lack clear guidelines, and authority figures such as chiefs may misuse their discretionary power for personal gain. The lack of standardised processes in customary land administration have overall created a dynamism within which community members have limited access to information on how to secure their land rights. Investors are found to further complicate this situation as the demand for land and a lack of protection of customary rights have resulted in the displacement of customary landholders across the country.