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Abstract

The Government of Uganda (GoU) has been actively advocating land reform and modernization, as demonstrated in the National Development Plan 2010-2015 and other official documents. With the adoption of these policies, there has been a rise in contentious relations between different actors within society, and while widespread violence has been kept in check, reports of small-scale violence over land continues, and dissatisfaction with government land policy exacerbates land tensions and the potential for larger-scale violence remains a serious potential threat. The research questions explored in this article are: in what ways and through which strategies does the GoU attempt agenda setting on land policy and economic modernization, and what are the limitations of this approach? The basic thesis of this article is that underlying the GoU’s efforts at land reform and modernization of the agriculture sector is a belief that state-led policy implementation can drive the changes in culture and lifestyle amongst the rural peasantry that will catapult Uganda into a “modern” society within a generation. Yet, because of the very nature of the government as a quasi-democratic state with extensive presidential authority and inconsistently applied rule of law, its primary imperative is maintaining power. The rule of law and implementation of land policy remain secondary to the perceived needs of political expediency. Hence, the GoU’s policies of modernization as well as its inability to relieve societal and political tensions related to land are undercut by its own political ambitions.

Author Bio(s)

Anne Pitsch Santiago received her Ph.D. in Government and Politics from the University of Maryland. She is currently an Assistant Professor at the University of Portland in the Department of Political Science. She has been teaching for over 10 years, and focuses her research on the socio-political dynamics of land policy reform in East Africa. Email: santiago@up.edu.