Legal pluralism, obscure reforms and adjudication of land conflicts in Hargeisa, Somaliland

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This paper explores the dynamics of policy and legal reforms in Somaliland. It does so by scrutinising the work of a special commission established in 2009 to strengthen statutory institutions' capacity to address a growing problem of land-related conflicts in Hargeisa, much of which is now adjudicated by non-statutory institutions such as traditional elders or Islamic clerics. In addition to the stated government goal, the commission's establishment, as the paper shows, was part of a reform agenda in which the state seeks to reconcile contradictive demands placed on it by the society it governs and the community of nations it pursues to join. Through participant observation, key informant interviews, and investigation of court records, the paper, therefore, aims to reveal how the state uses ambiguity as a strategy to advance its reform agendas. The paper also demonstrates that the ineffective way urban land conflicts are adjudicated erodes public confidence in the state and reinforces sub-ethnic patriotism.

Original languageEnglish
Article number106286
JournalLand Use Policy
Early online date29 Jul 2022
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2022


  • Conflict Adjudication
  • Customary Law
  • Justice
  • Reform
  • Sharia Law
  • Somali
  • Statutory Law
  • Urban Land

Research Beacons, Institutes and Platforms

  • Global Development Institute


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