Minova, Congo DR, 27 June 2017—After the death of their father about 10 years ago, Celestine Buhoro believed that she would at least get a portion of land as part of her inheritance. This was not to be and the brother hogged the whole piece left behind. When the brother also passed on, his son- Celestine’s nephew- also held on to the land.
That is when Celestine approached CDM an NGO specializing in land conflict resolution for help. “It was a long process where both sides in the dispute were invited to give their submissions. I gave my side of the story and finally a resolution was reached. I am happy because now I have a plot of land where I grow my own vegetables and I can take care of myself,” she says during an interview at the CDM offices.
Also hailing the work of CDM is Batundi Batachoka Claude who had a long running dispute with his neighbour who had moved the land marks and eaten into his piece of plot. “He wanted to take over my piece of land step by step and that is when I came to CDM and reported the matter. The man was arrested and taken to court where he lost the case,” he says.
CDM is one of the many NGOs working with UN-Habitat in South Kivu province of the Democratic Republic of Congo to solve land conflicts, which is the leading cause of fights in Africa’s second biggest country by size.
UN-Habitat works with organanisations like CDM through the ‘Community Participatory Land Use Planning programme’
This DFID-funded programme implemented by the UN-Habitat country office in DRC seeks to promote the concept of integrated land use planning at community scale to mitigate the risk of land disputes while unlocking the potential for increased socioeconomic development in the three provinces of North Kivu, South Kivu and Ituri.
CDM Director Kodakala Puruzi says that although rewarding, the work was extremely difficult because of the emotive nature of land ownership and conflicts in the area. “We have been in this for the past seven years and I must say it is through well wishers like UN-Habitat that we are able to carry on with our work. We normally try to solve conflicts immediately they erupt otherwise if they drag for long they become more difficult to solve,” he says adding that on average CDM handles about four cases per month.
UN-Habitat’s help has been in form of staff training, office furniture provision as well as availing transport to CDM transport whenever they are going to the field. He however says that after UN-Habitat closed the office in Minova, CDM has been undergoing a lot of challenges and wishes the organisation would re-open the office.
Grassroots support crucial to the project
The local committee overseeing the project believes that they are playing a very crucial role in land conflict resolution. At a meeting held in the local chief’s offices, the chief explains that there are a lot of land conflicts and addressing them would require people with knowledge of the local problems.
Two of the members Bridgitte and Rehema concur saying that so long as the population will continue to grow and the land size remains stagnant, such fights would be inevitable. Another member Nehemiah says the training UN-Habitat gave them on the use of GPS had proved very important for them.
“We are able to look into land problems as well as support development work for women and the youth,” he says.
The members are agreed that land demarcation was an important step that should be hastened if the issue of unequal distribution of the scarce resource was to be addressed. They also feel that the issue of absentee landlords owning huge chunks of land needs a redress.
Talking at Butumba, most of the residents were of the opinion that UN-Habitat should help them in solving disputed with the plantation owners.
“We are squeezed on very small grounds yet these people have acres and acres of land. We must address this problem if we are to live peacefully,” said one of the residents.
According to them, all they need is title to the small parcels they own then from that they will be able to fend for themselves.