Home Institution

The George Washington University

Publication Date

Fall 2017

Program Name

Uganda: Development Studies


This paper presents the causes and consequences of land insecurity in Gulu, Uganda. In order to address this important and often sensitive issue, the paper analyzes the role of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) insurgency and the government’s policy of forced encampment during the insurgency in contributing to land insecurity, causing widespread displacement among former internally displaced persons (IDPs). It further explores the importance of land ownership in providing economic productivity to rural landowners, as well as the nature of customary land tenure in Acholi culture and the government’s efforts to privatize communal land, to give a background on the economic and cultural importance of land ownership.

To complete this research, the researcher held interviews with multiple informants in Gulu and Kampala. Cultural leaders contributed their knowledge of traditional Acholi culture and their role in land dispute mediation, NGO professionals outlined multiple challenges Gulu residents face regarding land rights and the efforts of civil society organizations in reversing these challenges, and government officials provided information regarding the complicated legality of land ownership, including the constitutional right to customary land tenure, land title registration and the controversial constitutional amendment regarding forced land acquisition currently under debate in the Parliament of Uganda. Additionally, the researcher spoke to rural property owners in Gulu about the challenges they currently face with their land and the impacts of both the LRA insurgency and development projects on their perceived land security.

This research concludes that the LRA insurgency and current land grabbing and privatization efforts have contributed greatly to land insecurity in Gulu. The insurgency led to the destruction of demarcations traditionally used to determine property boundaries, as well as land grabbing by government officials, investors and former IDPs who were left without land after the conflict. The increasing prevalence of development projects also makes residents fear forced evictions from their property, which has a negative impact on their economic productivity. In order to reverse this trend, the researcher argues the government must shift its focus on the monetary value of land and instead recognize the emphasis Acholi culture places on communal land ownership.


African Languages and Societies | African Studies | Agricultural and Resource Economics | Civic and Community Engagement | Environmental Policy | Environmental Studies | Human Ecology | Migration Studies | Nature and Society Relations | Peace and Conflict Studies | Physical and Environmental Geography | Race and Ethnicity | Regional Economics | Rural Sociology | Social and Cultural Anthropology


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