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Country analysis > Mozambique Last update: 2008-12-17  

Law-Making in an African Context: the 1997 Mozambican Land Law

by Christopher Tanner

[ FAO Legal Paper Online #26, March 2002 ]

Mozambique's 1997 Land Law is an extremely important example of innovative land law reform in Africa. The Law and its accompanying regulations (including the so-called Technical Annex for the delimitation of community land) together represent a significant and promising effort to integrate customary and formal legal frameworks, to secure land rights for communities, families and individuals, and to stimulate development in rural Mozambique.

While providing a guide to the principle features of this legislative package, the unique contribution of Tanner's article is its in-depth analysis of the process by which the law and regulations were developed. According to Tanner, Mozambique's new land law emerged from an unparalleled process of dialogue and collaboration between government, civil society and technical specialists. First and foremost, this process was based on a thorough analysis of the social and economic norms and practices that dominate land access and management. As such, it was an imaginative and concerted attempt to design a legal framework resting on sound sociological foundations and accurately reflecting societal aspirations. The result, Tanner argues, is a modern law in which legal concepts and mechanisms are tailored to the underlying realities of land and society in Mozambique.

Tanner presents a detailed description of the making of this law, observed from his vantage point over a number of years as a technical advisor in Mozambique for FAO's Land Tenure Service. He places the process within its historical, political and sociological context, and highlights important lessons that the process holds for other countries committed to reforming land or other natural resource laws. He concludes with an assessment of the challenges that Mozambique now faces in implementing the law and making its promise a reality.

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