Since its independence in 1960, Ivory Coast - hereafter: Cote D’Ivoire - experienced a long period of stability and economic growth thanks to the investments in the agricultural sector. However, in 1980 rapid population growth and internal migration from urban to rural areas increased the pressure on the management and distribution of natural resources, which gave rise to a series of conflicts over land. The 1999 Coup d’Etat exacerbated the situation, as conflicts and political instability spread, particularly in relation to the control of land.
The 2000 Constitution guarantees the right of property to all. In particular, since the colonial period, vacant land in Cote d’Ivoire is considered state property, while occupied land has been governed by the customary land tenure system. A decree of March 1967 confirms the customary laws regulating land, stating that land belongs to the person who makes it profitable. The Rural Land Plan of 1989 financed by the World Bank was the first attempt for the establishment of a secure system of land tenure through a survey identifying land rights and land use, the establishment of plots’ limits and the introduction of new methods for land registration. In 1998, the Rural Land Law was passed with the aim of transforming customary land rights into private property rights regulated by the state. The law did not reach its scope, as the vast majority of rural land in the country is still governed by customary practices.
Conflicts and violence in Cote d’Ivoire have been strongly related to land. When the economy started to slow down, people began migrating from urban to rural areas where migrants from different countries and cultures had moved to cultivate the land. This gave rise to land disputes, which are generally mediated by the heads of the villages, who are widely respected among people and they have proved to be more effective than the formal mechanisms of land disputes resolution envisaged by the rural Land Law.