The Democratic Republic of Congo has experienced a long war that has killed 3.5 million people and devastated the country. After the end of the conflict in 1997, the new government began rebuilding administrative systems and set new standards for good governance. Congo’s population is composed of several ethnic groups, most of which are of Bantu origin. More than half of the population is rural, with agriculture accounting for 41% of the total GDP.
The Constitution of 2005 establishes that every person has right to enjoy the country’s natural resources and that the state is responsible for the equal distribution of these resources. The General Property Law of 1973 gives the state the ownership of all land, also allowing for customary rights to regulate the use of unallocated land in rural areas. Despite the existence of land related legislation, customary law still governs a significant part of land in Congo. The administration of land is assigned to traditional authorities, which usually cooperate with government officials.
Land disputes in the Congo are generally related to the control of land, the occupation of abandoned land and lack of known principles governing land tenure. Formal courts are entitled to resolve land related conflicts. However, these courts lack of financial means and basic human resources, and they also face interference from political and military leaders. Traditional authorities may resolve land disputes, but they are weak in some rural areas and often they do not have the skills to deal with land issues in a post-conflict environment.