This paper comprises four case studies of communities in different parts of Uganda. All four examine how local communities deal with issues of human rights and justice, accountability, access to resources and conflict resolution. They illustrate how ‘community governance’, ‘culture’ and the State interplay when it comes to access to land, as in one of the examples.
The case describes how the traditional system of land tenure still prevails in most of the country but is being corrupted by the influence of ‘modern’ ideas of land ownership. Traditionally land is owned by families and passed on from generation to generation without official administration or regulation. This system is meant to protect women because upon the death of a husband, for instance, the widow would take over the management of the family land. Recently, however, the idea of private ownership by an individual and official registration has taken root. The case study provides examples in which male relatives have grabbed and registered the land of divorced or widowed women claiming that ‘women don’t own land’. The ‘modern’ idea of individual rights and regulation in these cases has resulted into a loss of rights and dignity of women.
Together with three other cases – on traditional and modern conflict resolution mechanisms in Pokot, elders using FM radio to speak out against corruption in Tooro and traditional leaders managing conflicts in fishing communities in Panyimur – the publication illustrates the reality of many communities which live in mixed legal spaces where both statutory law and customary law regulate matters of conflict and justice.