The research upon which this article is based was initially undertaken in 1995 under the auspices of a USAID project and was continued in greater depth during three trips to Rwanda in 2002, 2003 and 2004, with the support of a twelve-month, post-doctoral research grant from the United States Institute of Peace, Washington, DC. I wish to thank the National Unity and Reconciliation Commission and the International Rescue Committee for providing logistical assistance in Kigali and throughout Rwanda, and Care International, Hagaruka, the International Rescue Committee, and Uyisenga N’Manzi for allowing me to interview some of the orphans who approached them for assistance with their land problems. I also wish to thank the anonymous reviewers of Development and Change for their comments.
Orphans’ Land Rights in Post-War Rwanda: The Problem of Guardianship
Article first published online: 17 OCT 2005
Development and Change
Volume 36, Issue 5, pages 911–936, September 2005
How to Cite
Rose, L. L. (2005), Orphans’ Land Rights in Post-War Rwanda: The Problem of Guardianship. Development and Change, 36: 911–936. doi: 10.1111/j.0012-155X.2005.00441.x
- Issue published online: 17 OCT 2005
- Article first published online: 17 OCT 2005
In 1994, the Rwandan civil war and genocide produced thousands of orphans. Alongside the war, the growing HIV/AIDS crisis in Rwanda has produced a current population of about 300,000 orphans — many of whom are compelled to head households. These orphans urgently require land use rights, but many find that their rights to their deceased parents’ customary land holdings are denied or restricted by their guardians and others. Despite the legal protections for children that are guaranteed within Rwanda's laws, the reality is that many guardians do not respect orphans’ land rights and few orphans have sufficient access to administrative and legal forums to assert and defend these rights. In contrast to most accounts in the literature that discuss more generally the issue of African orphans’ land rights in the context of adults’ land rights, this article focuses on specific cases in which Rwandan orphans independently pursued their land rights. Ultimately, the article concludes that in Rwanda — and elsewhere in Africa — government officials should re-examine their ideas about guardianship and grant orphans urgent attention as individuals and as a special interest group.