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The Nation photo of Jesse Jackson as he looks after Land Clash victim Henry Mwangi, at Nakuru Provincial Hospital, Rift Valley, Kenya (1998).

Ownership and land use are a major source of conflict in Africa. The AUF recognises a socio-economic development model that puts people before profits. In most cases African land is owned by the constituent republics of the African Union, and in many cases it is the state government that allocates and reallocates land. In cases where the allocation process is deemed to be unfair, or anti-community, or profit oriented to the disadvantage of people, land disputes can lead to extreme violence. Mass expulsions, displacement, destruction of property, and deaths continue to be the hallmark of unresolved land disputes in the African Union.     

The AUF aims:
1] to correct the overly skewed land distribution pattern in which a small percentage of the population owns the majority of land, by giving access to land to the millions of peasants who struggle to survive by working in temporary agricultural jobs. Securing land for landless people will guarantee food security for families.

2] reform slums and encampments where thousands of families have settled by giving government recognition to the settlements for the purposes of allocating funds for amenities and services, establish programs that give landless people access to employment, and encourage community development.

3] establish a mechanism for mediation of conflict and clashes between the landless and the police, the landowners and the public. The intervention of labour unions, religious organizations, and human rights groups in the mediation of land conflict must be given official recognition, and resources allocated for this service.

4] create a separate judicial mechanism for crimes that result from land conflicts in Africa, and which mechanisms allow for compensating the land owners and communities whose properties have been taken. As well, give landless peasants easy access to the judicial process in order to resolve problems before they result in violence and more dislocation.

In Zimbabwe and Kenya land settled by white colonists has been an issue of contention. Land disputes first became critical in Africa under the colonial occupation when Africans were disposed of land and moved into reserves, concentration camps, and "unskilled-labour" ghettoes. Africans deprived of land organized resistence cells and militias in order to expel settlers. The struggle for independence was largely a result of the fight to recover land lost to settlers.

However, land problems did not end with the defeat of the colonial occupation. In November 2000 in Swaziland, action by the King Mswati to evict 200 people and their chiefs from two ancestral areas in order to give the land to a relative, Prince Maguga, resulted in protests lead by the labour unions.

In Kenya's Rift Valley region Land Clashes have displaced thousands of people since 1992. An AUF assessor confirmed that hundreds of people have been killed and many more displaced.

The Kenyan army was deployed in trouble spots throughout the country to quell cattle rustling and ethnic clashes. The army and police, has orders "to disarm" Pokot and Marakwet districts. In the Njoro area land/community clashes in 1999 left 127 people dead.

Meanwhile about 18,000 people from Lelan and Kabeigo areas of Marakwet districts have been displaced into highland forests, while another 10,000 moved to neighbouring Keiyo district.

At the start of the land clashes in 1992 an AUF member visited the displaced in Ukambani [who were being referred to as squatters in the disputes]. Hundreds of people living in Masongaleni in Ukambani were without amenities of any kind. The presence of the Masongaleni "squatters" discouraged proper resolution of the conflict between white settlers, the original African owners of the land, and the new more powerful African owners. The authorities presented the argument as a humanitarian issue, as well as a matter of sovereignty. But it compounded complex issues. The clashes have since spread, and have become a feature of the Kenyan political scene.

Uncertainty over the land issue aggravated Zimbabwe's worst economic crises since independence in 1980. Farm occupations have cut production of tobacco and other export crops, and most foreign loans have been halted. Hard currency shortages have led to acute shortages of gasoline.

In Uganda unresolved land disputes are the powerful undertow at the core of political and religious conflict. Dispossed communities with land grievances dating from the middle of the 1960s have been simmering and dividing communities. The tensions over land ownership, compounded by power politics and economic rivalry resulted in the expulsion of the Asians in 1972, and the 1982 expulsion of nearly 80,000 displaced refugees from Rwanda.

In the Congo under Mobutu members of the Shongora community numbering in the thousands were expelled in 1991, and sent across the border with Uganda. The decision to expell happen quickly and high-level and private efforts to mediate the conflict only began after the expulsion. The dispute revolved around the fact that a large section of the BaShongora community had arrived from Uganda, and settled in the Congo in 1931 while trying to save their cattle from an epidermic of rinderpest.

Land use in Africa presents problems that unique to Africa, although there are correlations and similarities with land use else where. The systems used for managing food growing soils in Africa include terracing, irrigation, composting, animal manure, ash-dependent systems, long fallows, shifting cultivation, Flood Recession Cropping, and industrial chemical fertilization. Eachg of these management systems produces distinct patterns of land pressure so that the dislocation of individuals and communities unfolds and is expressed in ways that are diffrent from other places around the world.

Also settlement and shelter construction patterns are relatively specific to Africa. This is a result of many complex factors, one of which is the fact that most land in Africa is owned by governments, which allocate and parcel it out at their own discretion for the building of roads, dams, canals, parks, and other infrastructure. Settlement patterns produced by public and domestic construction are generally outside of the normal channels used by the community to dissipate pressures over land, and as a result these projects tend to produce the most dramatic social and community failure.

Gendered social norms and institutions are important determinants of agricultural activities in the African Union. The gendered land tenure, in particular, has effects on equity and effeciency. The usual view of women as holders of secondary, or indirect, rights to land must be supplemented by a more nuanced understanding of tenure. Women's rights are in fact considerably more complex than the simple right to fields of their husbands. First, women's rights to property obtained from men may be coupled with other rights and obligations.

In many ethnic groups, women have share rights to the harvests of their husbands. Moreover, despite land scarcity and rises in land value certain types of rights are strengthening. Specifically, women are more and more able to obtain land through the market. However, in some cases government intervention in the gendering of tenure seems to have eroded women's individual rights to land even when government projects explicitly try to incorporate women as "partners" in land-use programs.

Conventional methods of analysis of poverty assume resources are shared so that each individual in a household or family has the same standard of living. Nonmonetary indicators of living standards and deprivation are increasingly being used in measuring household poverty. Such indicators can be used for the examination of differences in living standards within households. It is possible to use indicators of deprivation at household level to measure differences between spouses, indicators that are designed to measure individual living standards and poverty status, which can fit within the framework of traditional poverty research using large samples.

Issues that arise in addressing land rights include contractual relationships within the family, the effects of technology, distributional struggle, and collective action. Examination of these concerns reveals relationships between economic development, fertility decline, the atomization of communities and the destruction of "extended" African family structures. The individualisation of property rights afforded male household heads constitutes a system of residual claimancy not unlike modern contractual relationships within the capitalist firm. Based upon these patriarchal property rights, one can draw up a simple model of household decisions to allocate women's labor between productive and reproductive activities, and concluding that patriarchal governance may create incentives for men to force women to "overspecialize" in reproductive labor.