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The politics of displacement-related land conflict in Yei River County, South Sudan*

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  28 July 2016

Peter Hakim Justin*
African Studies Centre (ASC), Leiden University, PO Box 9555, 2300 RB Leiden, the Netherlands
Mathijs van Leeuwen*
Centre for International Conflict Analysis and Management (CICAM), Institute for Management Research, Radboud University Nijmegen/African Studies Centre, Leiden University, the Netherlands


Drawing on empirical evidence from Yei River County in South Sudan, this paper argues that, rather than a temporary phenomenon, displacement may lead to a drastic reorganisation of land occupation and governance. Such reorganisation may become strongly connected to broader political contention. In the case of Yei, existing legal frameworks and institutions are inadequate to deal with land conflicts resulting from massive displacement and return. Crucially, historical grievances result in the displaced no longer being perceived as powerless victims, but as agents of a Dinka agenda to (re)occupy territories in Equatoria, and as perpetrators in land conflict. Such politics of land-control and identity may turn land disputes between displaced people and returnees into a major source of instability. At the same time, those displaced people who are not well-connected politically may lose their land rights.

Research Article
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2016 

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This research is part of the research programme ‘Grounding Land Governance – Land Conflicts, Local Governance and Decentralization in Post-Conflict Uganda, Burundi and Southern Sudan’, funded by NWO-Wotro Science for Global Development, Grant number W 01.65.332.00, the Netherlands.



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