Strengthened land commissions lay foundation for resolving land conflict in Mali and building sustainable peace
Conflict over land and resources in Mali is rooted in the country’s colonial past. Before colonization by the French, communities enjoy codified rights under vast and powerful empires. After Mali falls to French colonial rule in 1892, the French declare all “unproductive lands” to be under the control of the state, under the pretence of increasing productivity. Communities are dispossessed of their land. State ownership continues in postcolonial Mali, fuelling conflict over communities’ customary claims. In 1990, Mali begins a process of decentralization to allow communities to assert their tenure rights and in 2006 passes the Land Reform Act to accelerate resolution of conflicting land claims. Despite these efforts, Mali has problems with conflict over land. Disputes over community lands undermine Mali’s stability and impede efforts to build peace in the aftermath of conflict between Tuareg rebels in the north and the central government in Bamako. Recognizing the urgent need to address land-related conflict in the aftermath of the country’s armed conflict, the National Coordinating Body of Peasant Organizations in Mali (CNOP) and HELVETAS Swiss Intercooperation work with government, communities, and civil society to build the capacity of land commissions as a mechanism for resolving conflicts over land and securing the land rights of local communities.