Land tenure reforms and persistence of land conflicts in Sub-Saharan Africa – The case of Botswana
The aim of this paper is to interrogate and analyse the nature, extent and causes of land conflicts in Sub-Saharan Africa taking Botswana as a case study. The paper is based on desk-top surveys and review of literature on land tenure reforms and conflicts in the subcontinent and beyond. Synthesis of the literature shows that, despite international support and a series of tenure reforms undertaken by various post-independence governments, land conflicts - defined as disputes, disagreements and contestations over property rights and interests – appear to have raged on unabated. In some countries, land conflicts appear to have intensified in terms of magnitude and frequency. Furthermore, intensification and growth of land conflicts has exacerbated inequialities inherited from colonial regimes as well as created new platforms for social injustices and political instability. These trends contradict the common aim of land tenure reforms: which is to promote socio-economic development and environmental sustainability on the backdrop of peace, social justice and equality.
Botswana was selected as a case study because it is one of the few countries in Sub-Saharan Africa that has steadfastly introduced wide ranging and progressive land tenure reforms seeking to address land governance and inequality issues. The paper notes that although Botswana has largely succeeded in addressing land conflicts inherited from the colonial regime, it appears to have failed to adequately resolve land conflicts arising from post-colonial socio-economic and demographic transformations. The paper ends with recommendations on how future land reforms in Botswana and Sub-Saharan Africa in general may be used to minimise and finally eliminate land related conflicts.