Northwestern University

Wed 4:00 PM

Was the South African Land Restitution Process Fair?: A Bottom-Up Assessment of the State’s Attempt

When: Wednesday, March 6, 2013
4:00 PM - 5:30 PM  

Where: 620 Library Place, Program of African Studies, Conference Room, Evanston, IL 60208 map it

Audience: Faculty/Staff - Student - Public

Contact: Kate Dargis   847.491.7323

Group: Program of African Studies

Category: Lectures & Meetings

More Info


Organized by the International Law/International Organizations working group.

Was the South African Land Restitution Process Fair?:  A Bottom-Up Assessment of the State’s Attempt to Address the Legacy of Land Dispossession

Bernadette Atuahene, Chicago-Kent Law School

Abstract: According to Section 25 of the South African constitution, everyone dispossessed of a right in land between 1913 and 1994 as a result of a racially discriminatory law or practice is entitled to restitution or equitable redress.  As the land restitution commission struggled to figure out how to compensate the millions dispossessed during colonialism and apartheid, claimants were inevitably subjected to prolonged waiting periods before receiving their compensation.  The interview data showed that the quality of the commission’s communication during the wait (i.e. whether the commission explained the process thoroughly, responded promptly to inquiries, and proactively addressed problems) is the one variable that most determined whether respondents believed that the restitution process was fair or unfair.  While prior studies have observed that giving people input (i.e. voice) positively impacts their assessments of the process’s fairness; this study gives insight into the institutional arrangements necessary to give voice to the voiceless.

Bio: Professor Atuahene has varied experiences in the field of law and international development. During law school, she worked as a legal consultant for the World Bank and as a human rights investigator for the Center for Economic and Social Rights, where she received Amnesty International's Patrick Stewart Human Rights Award for her work with human rights organizations throughout South America.

Broadly, Professor Atuahene's research deals with the confiscation and restitution of property. In 2008 she won the Council on Foreign Relations International Affairs Fellowship and worked with the South African Director General of Land Affairs and his staff. She is presently writing a book about the Land Restitution Program, which is based on 150 interviews she conducted of program beneficiaries. She is also directing and producing a documentary film about one family's struggle to reclaim their land. Professor Atuahene won the Law and Public Affairs Fellowship and will be a visiting assistant professor at Princeton University for the 2011-12 academic year.

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