Local institutional mechanisms and land conflict resolution in post-conflict Northern Uganda: The case of Unyama Subcounty Gulu District
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Objective: The study sought to examine the relevance of local institutional modes of land dispute resolution in Unyama sub county Gulu district. It examined the nature of land disputes recorded in the study area and the various locations al institutional mechanisms of dispute resolution approaches used in the management of land disputes. The study also assesses the opinions of stakeholders on the relevance of these traditional approaches as mediums for managing land disputes. The challenges associated with local institutional arrangements were further investigated in the study. Methods: A total of forty-one 41 participants participated in this study. The primary participants included; women, the youth, Atekere or elders, Rwot-kweri or ward governors and local councils who participated in the focus group discussions. Other participants were LC 3 chairperson, land rights activist and a community development officer (CDO). The methods of data collection included focus group discussions (FGDs) and Key Informant interviews. Data was analysed qualitatively using the thematic analysis approach that was based on the content presented and interpretations from the thematic areas relevant to the study. Extensive use of quotations was adopted to provide evidences from the data collected. Results: Results showed that the predominant system of land ownership in the study area was customary tenure. It was found that communally held land had phased out and land was now owned as families but still governed by the customary rules. Land disputes in the study area were commonly between individuals, often over boundaries, proprietorship, and occasionally over inheritance rights. Such conflicts were found to be countlessly frequent in the study area. Conclusions: The study suggests that generally local institutional mechanisms are still an important medium for settling land disputes particularly in the rural areas where allegiance to lineage and other social ties are given greater premium. Recommendations: local institutions i.e. traditional authorities should be incorporated into the formal resolution methods in order to deal effectively with land conflicts. These should be promoted and strengthened through the introduction of court mandated arbitrations especially for conflicts that require interpretation of the customary norms or laws.