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Human Rights in Uganda

Devin Huseby: Land Rights

Hollander and Pollard

Although land-use decisions aren’t typically associated with human rights, they can potentially have a huge impact on a country, according to third-year law student Devin Huseby.

Huseby spent his time in Uganda studying land rights and how those issues affect larger questions of human rights.

“That doesn’t fit into the traditional human rights picture, but the sorts of pressures that are occurring there can be a precursor to a bunch of other human rights violations, in terms of things like war and famine,” he said.

During his visit, he talked to NGOs who work with land rights, environmental advocates, and government officials. Despite a massive population boom in recent decades, Uganda still has a very rural population, he said.

“There hasn’t been enough industrialization that people are moving into the cities, so it’s still something like 75 or 80 percent rural.”

The most prevalent form of land tenure there is “customary tenure,” which means that the land is utilized and portioned based on family and communal ties, he said.

As a result of that communal system, there’s a huge amount of land fragmentation in Uganda. As the population has grown, parcels have been broken down into smaller pieces.

“This has caused people to use very small pieces of land very intensely, which has degraded the quality of the land,” Huseby said.

Land-grabbing has also become a prevalent issue, especially in the war-torn north. People who have been displaced and put into camps sometimes find when they attempt to recover their land that it has been taken by wealthy people or the government, he said.

“Or at least there is a perception that that is happening,” Huseby said.