07 March 2008

Janine Ubink on land conflicts, customary law and the role of chiefs in Ghana

Janine Ubink (Van Vollenhoven Institute, Leiden University) this week defended her PhD entitled 'In the Land of the Chiefs. Customary Law, Land Conflicts and the Role of the State in Peri-Urban Ghana' (Amsterdam University Press 2008). This is from the book's back cover:

The central themes of this book are customary law, traditional leadership and local land management. International policy is currently witnessing a renewed interest in customary tenure systems as well as traditional leadership, through which it aims to enhance the efficiency of local governance, and create general access to and secure rights in land. Contrary to these ideas, practice reveals a lack of security of customary tenure in many areas. Mounting evidence of increasingly restricted and insecure access to land for the poor majority and increasing inequity in the face of land shortage and competition displays that customary systems often evolve inequitably and that traditional elites benefit disproportionally from commodification of land.

In an effort to understand customary land management by traditional authorities, and the role policymakers, lawmakers, judges and civil servants play in this process, this book studies practices of land management in peri-urban Kumasi, a rapidly expanding city and the capital of the Ashanti Region where traditional leadership – even more than in other parts of Ghana – forms a vibrant part of social life.

This book combines local case studies with theories about efficient land management, the resilience of traditional leadership, the negotiability of customary law and the gap between judges’ customary law and local practices. Doing so, it offers a unique body of empirical and theoretical knowledge for those interested in customary land management, as well as those interested in how customary law functions both at the local level and at the level of the state, in interaction with judges, lawmakers, policymakers, and civil servants.

For earlier work by Janine Ubink on the same topic, see her recent article in the Journal of African Law, vol 51 (CUP, 2007).

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