Competing Claims and Contested Boundaries: Legitimating Land Rights in Isiolo District, Northern Kenya

Saafo Roba Boye, Randi Kaarhus

Abstract


People from five different ethnic groups share the territory that is Isiolo District, situated in northern Kenya. This article gives an account of the different groups’ claims to land in this inter-ethnic setting, which is located in the border area of the vast drylands southeast of the Sahara. Presenting contemporary claims in a narrative form, the authors illustrate how these claims seek legitimacy through reference to historical processes, to first-comer status and to former governments’ decisions, to citizenship dues, as well as to “tribal” group rights. Taking into account the fact that the broader constitutional, political and social contexts related to these narratives and claims are, at present, in a state of transition, the article seeks to situate the local people’s perspectives and local land dynamics within broader discourses on land conflict and land policy reform in Africa. In this way, it also provides context for the series of new inter-ethnic clashes that took place in Isiolo District in 2011.

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