Examining the ADR-tistry of land mediators in northern Uganda
Katono, Isaac Wasswa
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Land wrangles are astonishingly common in Uganda today. Recent studies show that disputes over customary land—which accounts for 80 percent of the country and nearly all land in Northern Uganda—are on the rise, especially in the wake of recent development schemes and returns from displacement. With agriculture accounting for 82 percent of the country’s labour force and nearly a quarter of its Gross Domestic Product, the prevalence of these disputes threatens Uganda’s social stability and economic development. The vital role played by access to land in the sustenance of rural livelihoods also lends itself to particularly brutal strains of conflict. These cases—viewed by many as fights for survival—are often characterised by arson, destruction of property witchcraft, physical assault, and murder. A host of different actors from both traditional and formal sectors have responded to demands to resolve these escalating land conflicts. With such a milieu of independent doctors treating the same epidemic, however, it is not surprising that duplicated efforts, technical inefficiency, and arbitrary prescriptions often result. Moreover, the capacity of both state and local institutions to efficiently handle such large caseloads is severely lacking. In response, Non-‐Governmental Organisations (NGOs) and community actors have begun offering Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) services to amicably and affordably resolve these conflicts among the most vulnerable populations. Yet the large working gaps between today’s justice actors and the widespread lack of enforcement of both judgments and ADR settlements remain sources of intense frustration for many people seeking justice.
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