SEARCH

SEARCH BY CITATION

Abstract

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.