Orphans’ Land Rights in Post-War Rwanda: The Problem of Guardianship

September 2005
Laurel L. Rose (Carnegie Mellon University) in Development and Change, 36, 5, 2005, 911-36

Covers orphans in Africa; the problem of guardianship; the Rwandan setting; post-war situation of orphans; children and the law(s); orphans’ efforts to assert land rights – land dispute cases; rethinking care giving for orphans. The 1994 genocide, combined with the impacts of HIV/AIDS, created 300,000 orphans in Rwanda. Many are heads of households who urgently need land-use rights, but a weakened system of guardianship and increasing pressures on land often prevent this. Traditional support systems for Africa’s 34 million orphans (including 11 million ‘AIDS orphans’) have weakened over the years. The situation is particularly acute in Rwanda, where even before the genocide land pressures and poverty meant that many families were competing for land. Orphans experience many practical barriers, including lack of information, status, and few financial resources to defend their land rights. Makes a series of recommendations to the Rwandan government, including formulating and enforcing land laws specifically catering to orphans’ rights and designing national land-development programmes with the full participation of orphans.