Traditional chiefs and modern land tenure law in Niger

TitleTraditional chiefs and modern land tenure law in Niger
Publication TypeBook Chapter
Year of Publication1999
AuthorsC. Lund, and G.S.C.M. Hesseling
EditorE.A.B. van Rouveroy van Nieuwaal, and R.A. van Dijk
Secondary TitleAfrican chieftaincy in a new socio-political landscape
Pagination135 - 154
Date Published1999///
PublisherLit Verlag
Place PublishedHamburg
Publication Languageeng
Keywordschieftaincy, land law, Niger

Many local tenure arrangements in Niger were largely implicit, not recorded in any codified form. In the process of codification now underway, chiefs are regarded as the key interpreters of tradition, mutating the implicit into the explicit. Land tenure reform is not without contradictions. How are chiefs to maintain a level of flexibility and dynamism within the codified, rigidified form that the local tenure arrangements will have once they are made explicit? How are chiefs to determine which implicit local customary practice is to have primacy in a codified form, since their parameters are always changing from season to season and from year to year? As the new 'Code rural' in Niger shows, the invention-of-tradition approach which has gained prominence in English-language research has failed in its French counterparts. Both planner-administrators and academics are engaged in a discourse that seems to take tradition as an undisputed given. The remarkable thing is that is appears to work. The 'Code rural' has been considered path-breaking and innovative because it seeks to modernize tenure rules without breaking with tradition. The conclusion is that land tenure legislation can be modernized by integrating traditional chiefs into the legal framework. Bibliogr., notes, ref

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