In a recently published Congo Research Brief Kasper Hoffmann, Mariéve Pouliot and Godefroid Muzalia analyses the nexus between conflict, property rights and land governance in the Panzi neighbourhood on Bukavu, the provincial capital of South Kivu. The authors find that property rights are notoriously precarious in eastern Congo. Several factors contribute to this situation. They include the ambiguity of Congolese land legislation, rent-seeking in the land administration, rising demographic pressure, widespread land speculation, the lack of coherent urban planning, and competition between the country’s various land governance authorities in the region. This has led Congolese citizens to refer to urban land governance as ‘anarchic urbanization’, ‘property anarchy’, or ‘anarchic constructions’.

However, what currently takes place in Bukavu and several other cities in DR Congo and elsewhere in Africa is not the result of a spontaneous and chaotic process of urbanisation. Rather, it is a set of practices, in which the law—paradoxically—is applied in a calculated way to ensure that most people’s plots and buildings in effect do not comply with the law. Consequently, most Panzi residents’ property rights are temporal and ephemeral. However, the disenfranchisement of people’s land rights in this case is not the work of a grand conspiracy by Bukavu’s land authorities. Rather, the regime of practices is upheld by a myriad of micro-practices of power, enacted by a multitude of land authorities that compete and collaborate with each other in unpredictable patterns.

In this seminar that will be chaired by Morten Bøås (NUPI), Kasper Hoffmann will present the study behind this research brief, its main findings and the implications of these for the study of land governance in urban settings in Africa. This will be followed by a comment from Aloys Tegera from the Pole Institute in Goma, DR Congo.