Dissertations, Theses, and Capstone Projects

Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name





Donald Robotham

Subject Categories

Social and Cultural Anthropology


Karamoja, Land alienation, Land dispossession, Land tenure, Teso, Uganda


This dissertation is based off of fieldwork that I conducted in post-conflict Teso region in northeastern Uganda from 2012-2013. It focuses primarily on land dispossession and challenges to resettlement. Conflicts over land intensified in the early 1990s, coinciding with the early stages of resettlement in southern Teso after a period of regional civil war and large-scale cattle rustling. In contrast to the large-scale "land grabs" in Sub-Saharan African that have occurred since the 2007-08 global commodities crisis, land expropriations occur mainly on a small-scale in Teso. I argue that there are a number of drivers to land dispossession in the region, although the most structural impetus is fundamental transformations in the regional political economy. A central thrust of this work is that there is significant intra-regional differences with respect to patterns of displacement and resettlement. For instance, the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA), an Acholi-based insurgent group, infiltrated Amuria and Soroti districts in 2003, but did not seriously impact other districts. People from parishes in Teso that directly border the predominantly pastoralist region of Karamoja to the north have undergone a number of cycles of displacement/resettlement since the mid-1960s. While cattle raiders from Karamoja have devastated Teso for decades, there have been significant improvements in inter-regional piece within the last 5 years, and they have largely been due to the grassroots efforts of local civil society organizations. I critique the dynamics that underlie the long history of enmity between Teso and Karamoja regions, including the longstanding dispute over the correct inter-regional border. At the heart of this confounding problem--like most challenges facing Teso--is the issue of tenure rights to an increasingly fragmented supply of land.