congo refugees Afghan warlords military space

Land Row Delays Resettlement of Congolese Refugees
squatters land value taxation

Land Value Taxation Can Ease Tension Over Land

Violence over land is stark in poor places, even if overlooked in America, but Britain nears a solution. We trim, blend, and append three 2012 articles from: (1) IRIN, Mar 7, on Congo; (2) New Yorker, Mar 14, on Afghanistan by S. Coll; and (3) Tax Research UK, Mar 12 on land tax by R. Murphy, an anti-poverty campaigner tax expert, and ex chairman, chief executive, or finance director of more than ten SMEs.

by IRIN, by Steve Coll, and by Richard Murphy

The continued arrival of refugees fleeing post-election violence and militia activities in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in western Uganda, and the government’s efforts to resettle them, have created a land row that has already cost the life of a government official.

Alphonse Nteziryayo, commander of Rwamwanja settlement, in Kamwenge district, had accompanied humanitarian aid workers to assess the land the government had set aside for the settlement of Congolese refugees in Uganda when he was attacked and killed by squatters, who had settled there.

Government officials say 100 police officers have been deployed to Oruchinga, Nakivale, Rwamwaja, Kyangwali and Kiryandongo refugee settlement camps to help quell the clashes and ensure the safety of the refugees.

An estimated 100-150 Congolese refugees cross into Uganda daily through Bunagana, Busanza, and Nteko in Kisoro district. Some 5,600 refugees have crossed into Uganda since November 2011 following a disputed presidential election.

The squatters' claim to the land hinges on a presidential directive, issued in 2009, that they be given part of the land. Each of the 25 encroachers occupies 5.2-7.8 sqkm, which they hire out to squatters to cultivate. They are resisting leaving the government land.

Stephen Mallinga, Uganda’s Minister for Relief, Disaster Preparedness and Refugees, has accused area politicians of inciting the squatters not to move off the land, and to attack government officers and aid workers.

“Most of the encroachers are government officials or former government leaders who grabbed government land they were charged to protect," Malinga noted. He insists the squatters had already been allocated land somewhere else.

To see the whole article, click here .

JJS: It should not be possible to discuss ethnic violence without focsing land. At least this blinkered American did refer to “military space” and the corrupting influence of subsidy.

In 2009, as the Obama “surge” began, it was apparent to all Afghan actors that the United States and the international community intended to increase their investments in the country -- military and otherwise. For non-Taliban factions under arms, the new incentives argued for patience, hedging, and rent seeking while the money was good.

Now the situation has reversed. The West’s ebbing tide may tempt some armed factions to try to control and seize the political and military spaces that NATO has announced it is abandoning. This may tip groups previously neutral to the Taliban side; it may give rise to new violence only peripherally related to the Taliban’s insurgency; and it will certainly create challenges for the 2014 political transition in Afghanistan, which is scheduled to include a presidential election.

What is Plan B? If some or even a majority of the assumptions behind the current exit strategy are flawed, what are the alternatives?

According to the Afghan constitution, President Karzai must leave office in 2014, or Karzai will decline to leave, and provoke a crisis. In 2009, Afghanistan almost miraculously dodged a meltdown after a fraudulent election -- because the incentives for holding on as Obama poured money into the country trumped factional interest. That is unlikely to happen a second time.

Of course, many risks would attend any shift in plans -- but it is not as if the current course is risk-free.

To see the whole article, click here .

JJS: The writer’s assumption -- that violence can solve a moral problem -- seems flawed to me. The Taliban appeals to many poor people because those religious fanatics challenge the current property arrangement. If the US sided with land reformers rather than with land grabbers, then the Taliban would not have much appeal at all (few like fanatics). And the best way to reform landed property -- which has worked wherever tried -- is to require owners to pay land dues or land taxes or land use fees. It’s an idea discussed a lot lately in Britain (which also once had to withdraw its military from Afghanistan and Africa).

People are asking what land value taxation is, which given the attention it’s getting is a fair thing to do.

One explanation is here. I don’t agree with it all, but it’s a clear expression of the main issues.

Wikipedia has a spin on it as well, here.

And Jerry Jones from the Labour Land Campaign has a longer version here.

In all cases I have some reservations about the optimism and scope suggested – but equally think LVT has to be a component of a future just tax system.

To see the whole article, click here .

JJS: Amen to that. If you’re going to have taxes, at least tax the values that society generates (the values of sites and resources) before, or if ever, taxing the values that an individual generates (the value of goods and services). That should raise enough revenue that you can forget about taxing income, sales, and buildings. Of course, to recover the socially-generated values of nature you don’t have to use taxes; rather, you could charge land dues or user fees or deed fees or use your imagination!

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Editor Jeffery J. Smith runs the Forum on Geonomics and helped prepare a course for the UN on geonomics. To take the “Land Rights” course, click here .

Also see:

Outsiders re-claim Africa but also stiffen the rules
http://www.progress.org/2010/exchange.htm

As China, the US, etc confront corruption …
http://www.progress.org/2011/pawlenty.htm

How should US engage the world?
http://www.progress.org/2011/deploy.htm

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