Land ownership and access has long been at the centre of some of the most protracted global conflicts. Land is central to human development and indeed to human existence itself, so any attempt to deprive individuals of their property rights can lead to violence. Land is the most important natural resource to the pastoralists and agro-pastoralists who occupy Somalia’s rural areas, including most of South West State; many clan conflicts in these areas result from disputes over grazing land and watering points.
Article 43 of Somalia’s constitution (2012) guarantees individual rights to own and access land, and no one is allowed to deprive others of these rights. Arable land is scarce in South West State and there have been recurrent conflicts pitting different clans against each other over land resources throughout the state’s history.
Inter-clan conflict, including violence between internally displaced persons (IDPs) and host communities, has brought about population displacement, evictions, systematic killings, rape and property destruction. Most vulnerable people affected by clan violence seek shelter in IDP camps within the Baidoa region. At the heart of this displacement is an often-irretrievable loss of property rights. Many displaced people, unable to return to the land they have lost, find themselves living as squatters in settlements around Baidoa town.
Inter-clan conflict disproportionately affects the most vulnerable and socially excluded groups, including women, children and people living with disabilities (PWDs) whom persistent violence has forced to abandon their property and escape to safety and protection. The extent to which customary law (Xeer), Sharia and statutory law can protect their rights to hold, retain or reclaim property is limited, especially in times of strife. Other complex issues revolve around the right of women and other socially excluded returnees to return to areas where they own property.