Women's Land Access in Post-Conflict Rwanda: Bridging the Gap between Customary Land Law and Pending Land Legislation

By Rose, Laurel L. | Texas Journal of Women and the Law, Spring 2004 | Go to article overview

Women's Land Access in Post-Conflict Rwanda: Bridging the Gap between Customary Land Law and Pending Land Legislation


Rose, Laurel L., Texas Journal of Women and the Law


I. Introduction

In recent years, numerous scholars have acknowledged that the experiences of women in post-conflict societies are unlike those of men. This article addresses the situation of women in one post-conflict society-Rwanda. In particular, it addresses Rwandan women's problems in gaining access to land for residential and agricultural purposes following the war of 1990-1994. During the war, hundreds of thousands of women were forced to flee their communities. After the war, many women returned to their own and other communities, without husbands or male relatives, only to discover that the land that they hoped to claim was occupied by other refugees. Without husbands or male relatives to help them regain their land or to acquire new land, Rwandan women had few options but to struggle for land rights on their own.1 Similar to women in many other post-conflict societies, they were compelled to maneuver within a system of land law that had been greatly altered by war.

Section II of this article covers the effects of Rwanda's civil war on women. Section III discusses Rwanda's legal system, including the history and current state of customary land law and modern land legislation. This section emphasizes women's rights to land under customary land law and the pending land legislation. Section IV argues that a gap exists between the customary and modern legal systems, creating both land access opportunities and constraints for women. Section V presents the results of my field research on women's presumed land rights and their actual land access, both of which currently exist under conditions of legal uncertainty. This section examines, through specific case studies, how women first assess their status within the complex hierarchy of rural land rights, and thereafter, how they work within the constraints and opportunities presented by their immediate circumstances in order to retain or to gain control over land. Section VI discusses the case studies as a group in order to demonstrate the patterns according to which Rwandan women are creatively bridging the gap between a rapidly evolving system of customary land law and a modern system of land law in-the-making. Finally, section VII offers several conclusions regarding my research findings and suggests that government officials should work to achieve land policy and legislation that specifies and guarantees women's land rights in both theory and practice.

II. The Effects of Rwanda's Civil War on Women

The tiny central African country of Rwanda2 was a centralized kingdom from the fourteenth century until the late 1890s, at which time Germany assumed control of both Rwanda and neighboring Burundi and ruled them as part of German East Africa. Following the German defeat in World War I, the Eeague of Nations mandated control of the two territories to Belgium, which had already colonized neighboring Congo.3 Rwanda achieved independence in 1962.4

Over the years, Rwandans have experienced several outbreaks of violence, beginning with the social revolution in 1959 when a Hutu5 government came to power and more intensely with the start of civil war in 1990 when the Tutsi-dominated Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) invaded Rwanda from Uganda.6 Many observers have attributed this violence to ethnic tensions and political competitions for power and control of increasingly scarce resources, including land.7 The ongoing hostilities in Rwanda reached a fevered pitch on April 6, 1994 after the plane of the Hutu president, Juvenal Habyarimana, was shot down outside the country's capital, Kigali, killing everyone on board.8 Within minutes of the crash, ultranationalists, primarily representing the majority Hutu ethnic group, began implementing a plan to systematically eliminate their enemies, including members of the minority Tutsi ethnic group and moderate Hutus who favored a power-sharing arrangement with the Tutsis. During the war and genocide, which were carried out by armies, militias, and ordinary citizens, members of both ethnic groups killed members of the opposite group and sometimes members of their own group, although the Tutsis sustained the greatest losses. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Women's Land Access in Post-Conflict Rwanda: Bridging the Gap between Customary Land Law and Pending Land Legislation
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.