Communities “squatting” on their own land – How to achieve fairer land laws in the DRC

As part of our mini-series on the underlying challenges for forest governance in the Congo Basin, we are happy to share with you the study ‘In Search of Land Laws that Protect Forest Peoples in the Democratic Republic of Congo’.


The study calls for an end to the State’s exclusive ownership rights over the land and for the creation of a new land domain where collective and individual possession rights apply, paving the way to full ownership rights.

The need to clarify land and forest tenure has been increasingly recognised by policy makers in recent years as an essential precursor to better forest management and governance. Our new analysis of the land tenure regime in DRC highlights the lack of protection and security of land rights for forest populations and indigenous peoples, and provides practical recommendations for how this can be achieved through various reforms. The report has been produced in collaboration with Congolese NGOs Réseau Ressource Naturelles (RRN), Groupe d’action pour sauver l’homme et son environnement (GASHE) and Centre d’accompagnement de la population pour le développement de Mai-Ndombe (CADEM) and Pierre Etienne Kenfack, Professor of Law at the University of Yaoundé.

The study finds that DRC’s current land regime is rooted in outdated legislation, which gives the State exclusive ownership rights of the land and its resources, as well as of sub-surface resources. This regime serves to effectively deprive forest communities and indigenous peoples of any rights to property or possession of land they occupy or use. Not only does this fall short of internationally-recognised standards on land rights and indigenous peoples’ rights, it is also incompatible with DRC’s 2006 Constitution, notably Article 34 which guarantees customary individual and collective property.

We hope you find the report interesting, and look forward to any comments or questions you may have.

For the full study (in French), click here.

For French Summary version, click here.

For English Summary version, click here.