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In this article we will study the different acquisition modes of residential land plots on the plantation of Mukwidja, territory of Kalehe, South Kivu. The owner of this plantation dedicated part of the agricultural land of the plantation for residential purposes. By doing so, he offered an alternative land access for a growing group of peasants looking for land to secure their livelihoods. In order to access the land, farmers sign private contracts with the owners of agricultural plantations. These private land contracts are neither state-based nor customary-based. They defy both traditional authority structures, giving administrative authority and political legitimacy to economic operators and plantations owners. We will analyse Mukwidja as a site of public authority where authority is exercised outside the realm of government institutions. Mukwidja’s plantation owner draws on moral, economic and political sources to legitimize his authority. However, the presence of two latent conflicts shows that his authority is not undisputed. The first latent conflict deals with the contested property of the plantation. The second latent conflict deals with the relationship between the plantation owner and his subjects.
This leads to a situation that is stable and precarious at the same time. Because of reciprocal relationships between the plantation owner and his subjects and the customary authority, the current power constellation seems to be stable. However, the two latent conflicts could cause a renegotiation of this fragile stability.