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Land Grabbing in Uganda Leaves Widows in Poverty

By June 18, 2015Uganda
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“With limited and insecure land rights, it is difficult, if not impossible, for the poor to overcome poverty.”
– Dr. Hamid Rashid, United Nations

Land grabbing is a huge problem in Uganda. Essentially, land grabbing occurs when land is stolen from the weak by the powerful, who act with impunity and no respect for human life or property.  In Uganda, close relatives often violently steal property from widows. Despite the fact that these widows own the property, and that Uganda has laws that recognize their ownership, the law is often not enforced and the widows are left without any recourse. Without their land, the widows and their children have nothing—no shelter, no livelihood, no safety.

A recent article talks about these desperate women resorting to wailing and undressing as a sign of protest and in an effort to curse their enemies.

The Land and Equity Movement of Uganda (LEMU) is a Ugandan non-profit organization dedicated to protecting community land rights through legal recognition and representation. LEMU works with rural communities in several ways, including legal representation and advocacy, dispute mediation, filing for title paperwork, and establishing formal community rules and property boundaries.

Center Student Staff member Palmer Hurst worked with LEMU last summer as a second-year law student.  Palmer represented several LEMU clients in Ugandan court at both trial and appeal, visited rural communities to mediate dispute resolutions and assist clans in setting up formal rules for their lands. He also assisted LEMU in drafting and publishing academic papers, scholarly articles, and legal opinions to file with the Ugandan High Court, and helped facilitate educational seminars for Ugandan police, judges, attorneys, and legislatures to highlight the need for solid and sustainable land policy.

This summer, Chelsea Mack (1L) is interning with LEMU.

The Center has also supported  LEMU by editing and formatting documents for court submission, drafting policy briefs, assisting with research, and completing training manuals for the LEMU staff, so that the staff can have a uniform and comprehensive approach to Uganda’s continued land rights struggle.