Research project Northern Uganda on land rights with Radboud University

ZOA and Radboud University Nijmegen are working together in a research project in Northern Uganda focusing on land rights interventions (by ZOA and by GIZ) and their impact on the legitimacy of different stakeholders. The research is done through ethnographic fieldwork in Acholi and Teso (sub-)regions of Uganda, where state legitimacy is highly contested, and tenure insecurity prevailing. The project is funded by the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs through the Knowledge Platform Security and Rule of Law. 

The main questions for the research are:

– How do practices of decentralized land registration impact on the local legitimacy of the state and customary authorities in northern Uganda?

– How do development organizations’ interventions to enhance local government capacities for land services provision feed into dynamics of legitimization?

– How can interveners better take ‘legitimacy’ into account, and so implement their work in a more conflict-sensitive way?

Applied research

Two post-doc research projects explore the dynamics of legitimation; and how development interventions feed into these. These dynamics are contrasted with assumptions and normative ideas on legitimate authority underlying projects on political governance. The project assesses how practitioners may take legitimacy more explicitly into account when strategizing to strengthen land governance. It engages with development practitioners, notably through developing and implementing legitimacy-focused conflict-sensitivity trainings, including participatory theatre. Dramatized video-clips will visualise research findings and in particular the role of development organizations. This may serve as training material for NGOs and CSOs and stimulate debate on these critical issues.

The first pilot of this conflict sensitivity training module took place during the last week of April and the first week of May 2019. If you’re interested in the training module and/or would like to know more about the research please contact David Betge, land rights specialist at or Corita Corbijn, peacebuilding specialist at

Click here if you want to know more about ZOA’s approach to land rights.