From Encampment to ‘Emplotment’: Land Matters in Former IDP Camps

Susan Reynolds Whyte

Department of Anthropology, University of Copenhagen, Denmark

Sulayman Babiiha

Department of Development Studies, Gulu University, Uganda

Rebecca Mukyala

Department of Development Studies, Gulu University, Uganda

Lotte Meinert

Department of Culture and Society, Århus University, Denmark



The small rural trading centres that hosted thousands of people in camps for Internally Displaced Persons are being transformed once again in the period since the closure of the camps. Some are pursuing futures as Town Boards or even Town Councils envisioned in fine technical drawings by professional urban planners. In planners’ views, development seems to require the exodus of displaced people and also the removal of the dead who were interred in the camp during the conflict. They must be exhumed and reburied on their own land in rural homes. Both sub-county land and the property of landowners within these small urban centres are being divided into plots to be leased, sold and developed. The commodification of land in the former IDP camps is proceeding apace. Traditional Leaders warn against the sale of rural ‘ancestral land,’ noting that it is better to buy and sell plots in trading centres.

This paper is primarily based on fieldwork in Awach, a former IDP camp now pursuing the status of Town Board. In analysing material from interviews with landowners, ‘remainders’ who stayed behind after the camp closed, local leaders and officials, we emphasize the tensions and conflicts that are emerging around plots and their development. >> View Full Text (PDF)