Addressing the Wrong Peace? The politics of land conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo

Lead Research Organisation: London School of Economics & Pol Sci
Department Name: Department of International Development

Abstract

Since achieving its independence from Belgium in 1960, the Democratic Republic of Congo has remained one of the most conflict-affected countries in the world. Though the causes of violence in the country are diverse, it is widely acknowledged that issues of land play a dominant role in conflict, both as a 'source' and as a 'resource' of conflict. Land has historically been a source of conflict due to the complex relationship between a number of factors, including but not limited to the fact that: citizenship and property rights have historically been aligned with ethnicity and manipulated by political actors to maintain systems of patronage for political power; the country suffers from high levels of mass displacement due to ongoing conflict, neighbouring conflicts and shifts in the productive sectors towards the mining industry; land tenure systems and rights are unclear, arbitrary, inconsistent and contested; information and data on land is either difficult to access or does not exist; and there is little access to effective or reliable justice mechanisms for managing issues around land.

Understanding issues of land is thus a fundamental step towards addressing the causes and consequences of conflict in the DRC. However, despite clear linkages between land and conflict, issues of land have been relatively absent from literature, policy and practice regarding peace and conflict in the DRC. Notably, for anyone who has worked on issues of conflict and violence in the DRC, it is impossible to ignore how the deeply political history of land, ethnic identity and citizenship have impacted political relations and conflict dynamics. However, when looking into this issue, a number of key puzzles emerge: 1) data and information on land use, land rights and land tenure is virtually non-existent for the DRC, and 2) efforts by both domestic and international actors to address issues of conflict have consistently neglected issues of land. Why is this the case? And what can looking into issues of land-related conflict tell us about broader conflict and political dynamics within the DRC that limit the potential for sustainable peace?

This project aims to understand if and how the political relationships between actors might be contributing (intentionally or unintentionally) towards the perpetuation of land conflict dynamics in the DRC, and how land conflict may contribute to broader conflict dynamics within the country. What are the kinds of conflicts that exist over land and why do these persist? How do local land conflicts relate to regional or national level political institutions? Through qualitative case study research and quantitative data collection, this project aims to answer these questions and produce robust data on the highly under researched topic of land conflict in the DRC.

Publications

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Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
ES/P000622/1 01/10/2017 30/09/2027
2480653 Studentship ES/P000622/1 30/09/2020 30/09/2023 Megan Renoir