Paralegal networks play a critical role in establishing a link between the informal and formal justice systems in the East and Horn of Africa.
Burundi is a densely populated, land locked country in Central Africa, and one of the world's poorest nations due to decades of civil unrest, and political and economic instability. The majority of the Burundian economy is agriculture (45% of the GDP) which supports 90% of the labor force. However, in recent years the country has experienced a drastic contraction of its subsistence economy due to civil war and degradation of land through over population and use, therefore continuing the nation’s heavy reliance on bilateral and multilateral aid.
As the country has moved from war to peace in relatively recent times, it faces complex issues including national and local levels of governance and legislation requiring drastic reform and improvement to strengthen the rights and livelihoods of Burundian citizens – especially women. The large number of displaced peoples within the country, and the mass migration of the population through civil war (much of which is now returning) has produced land ownership disputes and conflict.
IDLO, in partnership with the funding organization Stichting ZOA, commenced a research project in June 2015 to determine the impact of Land Tenure Registration on land disputes and women’s land rights.
IDLO has signed a memorandum of understanding with the East African Community (EAC), an intergovernmental organization composed of six countries in eastern Africa – Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, South Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda.
IDLO works to empower rural women by enhancing legal knowledge and rights awareness, giving them tools to promote justice in their local communities, and promoting their professional participation in the justice sector. Many women living in rural communities are excluded from decision-making processes and unable to access formal justice structures.
“I come from Bangladesh, a country which also has enormous problems about the denial of justice, and about efforts and the measures that are being taken to strengthen people’s capacity to access justice. But, it was here in Africa, that I learned what it can mean, in real terms, for the people. And I will tell you now the story of Rosie.”
The rolling hills of Burundi, or collines, represent the heart of its rural society. Burundi has a growing population and one of the highest population densities in Africa, yet 90% of its nine million inhabitants live in rural areas and many rely on subsistence farming for food.
“There is no peace and security without democratic governance and development.
In June 2015, IDLO commenced the project: Researching the Impact of Land Tenure Registration on Land Disputes and Women’s Land Rights in Burundi. Land Tenure Registration (LTR) programs involve issuing proof of ownership to holders of land rights to increase their legal certainty. Such programs are undertaken for a variety of reasons. While much is known about the impact of LTR on factors like access to credit and agricultural output, there is a gap in knowledge of its impact on land disputes, particularly in post-conflict settings.
In Burundi, land tenure registration is the primary way for the government to deal with the large number of land disputes across the country. A series of pilot programs aimed at resolving land rights issues have been initiated in recent years. To date, however, it is unclear whether these pilot programs have had their intended effect of reducing the number of land disputes.