Armed conflict is particularly destructive to socio-legal relations regarding land and property. Reconstruction priorities increasingly include the reform of property legislation as part of efforts to address the causes and reasons for continuation of conflicts. However, a pervasive problem is that postwar laws are extremely difficult to connect with informal on-the-ground developments regarding perceptions of spatially-based rights as populations pursue livelihoods, grievances and aspirations. Left unattended, the problem constitutes a potential flashpoint for a return to conflict. This article examines this connection for postwar Sierra Leone, in order to highlight issues and questions of potential utility. The stakes are high for successfully connecting postwar land tenure laws with informal socio-legal realities. For Sierra Leone, a primary issue is the presence of a large population without access to land, tenure insecurity discouraging investment, large-scale food insecurity and rural unemployment while significant swathes of arable and previously cultivated land stands idle.
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