Ambiguous Outcomes of Returnees’ Land Dispute Resolution and Restitution in War-Torn Burundi

Rosine Tchatchoua-Djomo*, Han van Dijk

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Redressing land dispossession in the aftermath of violent conflicts is daunting and complex. While land dispute resolution and restitution are expected to promote return migration, this outcome is contingent upon the changing social, economic and political conditions under which return takes place. Drawing on qualitative data from Makamba Province in southern Burundi, this case study highlights the politically and historically shaped challenges underlying the resolution of competing and overlapping claims on land following protracted displacement. These include the undocumented and fluid nature of customary land rights, institutional and legal pluralism and shifting land governance relations. This paper emphasises the centrality of the state in regulating returnees’ land dispute resolution and restitution processes. Violent conflicts and forced migration have enabled the state to expand its control over customary land tenure. The gradual exclusion or replacement of local authorities has shaped a competitive structure of jurisdictions and confused authority over land. National land restitution commissions have been used by the central government to shape land tenure and state–citizen relations and to exert pressure on land tenure institutions. Addressing competing claims on land following armed conflicts may fail if attendant struggles over public authority and changing political dynamics are insufficiently considered.

Original languageEnglish
Article number191
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2022


  • Burundi
  • Control
  • Dispute resolution
  • Land disputes
  • Postwar
  • Property restitution
  • State formation


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