In sub-Saharan Africa, many of the large-sale civil wars that began around the end of the Cold War had come to an end in 1990s to 2000s, but the number of local conflicts over natural resources such as land has not decreased. This special issue focuses on the roles of traditional authorities in the current land-related conflicts. According to data gathered in over 26,000 interviews in nineteen African countries, many ordinary citizens believe that traditional authorities have essential roles in their social life, especially in the settlement of local disputes and land allocation. Intervention in land-related conflicts by traditional authorities has various effects that are highly dependent on social context. The involvement of traditional authorities sometimes contributes to mitigation of feelings of antagonism, sometimes results in the escalation of opposition, and sometimes results in traditional authorities themselves becoming party to a conflict. This special issue includes three articles that analyze the role of chiefs in the solution of land conflicts in post-conflict northern Uganda, the change in authority over land in Kenyan pastoral society, and local responses to recent ‘land grabbing’ in northern Zambia.
After independence, many African governments strived for modernization and nation building, and to this end they suppressed the indigenous kings and chiefs, regarding them as having fostered regional and ethnic distinctions. However, since the 1990s, when African states faced political liberalization and decentralization, not only African governments but also international institutions and donor countries began to support and strengthen kingship and chieftainship. In Uganda, many kings and chiefs resurged after the amendment to the constitution in 1995 that formally recognized them. Chiefs of the Acholi in northern Uganda have created “Acholi kingdom,” which has a paramount chief and a multi-layered institution to integrate their power. They also encouraged “Acholi tradition,” which uniformly covers the whole Acholi region. This paper focuses on a meeting which chiefs held to deal with a land conflict, and clarifies the process in which chiefs exercised their power and their people accepted it. In this meeting, chiefs advocated “Acholi tradition” as the basis of their legitimacy and utilized the institution of “Acholi kingdom” in order to exercise their power. However, their legitimacy was not an absolute one that people might accept unconditionally. The chiefs needed a lengthy process, in which their legitimacy was contested and negotiated. It was only through this process that their power was established and accepted by their people.
Today, a variety of land conflicts are taking place in Africa, and wildlife conservation is considered to be one cause. This study examines Kajiado South Constituency in southern Kenya, where Amboseli National Park, one of the most famous and popular wildlife-oriented tourist destinations in East Africa is situated. In that area, on one hand, private landownership is increasing in local Maasai society, and on the other hand, outsiders are implementing many “community-based” wildlife conservation programmes. The purpose of this study is to examine the details of land conflicts occurring today and find out where authority lies. Comparison of contemporary land conflicts in Kimana Sanctuary and Osupuko Conservancy, and a human-wildlife conflict around Amboseli National Park revealed that the authorities to which local people referred in the course of the conflicts differed according to the proprietary rights of land or resources. It was also confirmed that while the land conflicts are thought not to be a matter for the traditional spokesmen, politicians do have influence or a voice in the conflicts even if they are not members of the local society.
Based on the 1995 Land Act of Zambia, land market reforms have impacted the communal tenure of customary land and people’s livelihoods in many ways. In particular, the Land Act strengthened the role and power over the people of the traditional authorities, especially chiefs, in land administration. Customary land administration changed in three points under the new Land Act in Zambia. (1) The new Land Act positively stimulated the market economic mechanism of the customary land in Zambia. Allocation of the customary land threatened the residents’ livelihoods and quality of life. Under the new Land Act, outside investors and local elites could obtain land ownership from the traditional authorities. (2) The new Land Act strengthened the role and power of the chiefs in administration and jurisdiction. Chiefs can get the power to allocate the land to people including the outside investors. (3) Local administration strongly depends on the character of the chief. This has led the local conflicts over land and land allocation, which threatened the living standards of the people. At the same time, a new chief can change the administration drastically and improve the situation upon the death of a predecessor.
To clarify the structure of the floor and the way that agreement is reached in Malinke’s tonsigi meetings, this paper examines the organization of the meeting talk interactions. In recent years, the “tradition of dialogue” in Mali has been pointed out. This tradition is characterized by the right of all participants to voice their opinions and by the reaching of decisions only when all participants in the meeting agree. This idea is anchored in the ethnographic descriptions of tonsigi meetings in rural areas of Mali where Malinke people live. However, these descriptions are based on field research conducted in the 1960s, and without analysis of primary data such as the organization of meeting talks. In this paper, I show that tonsigi are still held, and I examine (1) how all participants can voice their opinions, focusing on the role of a chairperson who controls the floor, and (2) how collective decisions are made by participants, focusing on how agree to respective assertions, by analyzing the organization of meeting talks as they occurred. As a result of the discussions, tonsigi are practiced today by children in rural areas of Mali. The right of all participants to voice their opinions is realized through localized interactions such as a chairperson allowing a sufficient pause in transitions on the floor. Collective decisions are reached by both of two types of the agreement. The one is the passive agreement such as silence, and the other is the active agreeing such as the repetition of an opinion previously voiced.