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NORGLOBAL-Norge - Global partner

Poverty and marginalisation in Central and West Africa: autochthony and land rights

Awarded: NOK 3.9 mill.

Autochthony is the hallmark of the crisis in Côte d'Ivoire, the controversial status of the Banyamulenge in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo and it is also the centrepiece of the so-called 'Mandingo-issue' in Liberia. The current obses sion with autochthony has facilitated a debate in which land issues became particularly vulnerable to the politics of identity and belonging. One important asset in such situations is the ability to stake your claim to land from the position of being auto chthonous, e.g. as the ?son of the soil?, whereas your counterpart is presented as a 'newcomer', an 'immigrant' and a ?stranger?. In such a situation, claiming citizenship is of primary importance because although citizenship does not entitle you to resou rces, it entitles you to enter the struggle for resources. Such conflicts take place within a delimited territory where two or more groups have ?shared? the land for a period of time. Due to a combination of political and economic factors the compromise u pon which their co-habitation was built is no longer sustainable. New modes of deciding who have rights to land must therefore be established. In some cases, the conflict can be dealt with by referring to a contract, but in our cases this is rarely possib le as rights to land are often based on a combination of lineage-based claims and ad-hoc user rights. In such a situation, the exclusion of others from the land based on a claim that they are not autochthonous to the area in question may be a viable strat egy. As the cases of Côte d'Ivoire, Eastern Congo and Liberia shows the results of such perceived and real processes of marginalization and poverty can be disastrous. Our contribution to this debate is therefore to conduct cross-country comparisons based on a sample of approximately 2000 households. This will enable us to produce more systematic information about how the politics of autochthony is actually played out within the context of land rights disputes.

Funding scheme:

NORGLOBAL-Norge - Global partner