Wartime speculation: property markets and institutional change in eastern Congo's urban centers

David Peyton*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Conflict alters economic conditions and drives institutional change in cities. This article explores these phenomena through the lens of real estate markets and property rights institutions in eastern Congo's urban areas. These cities have experienced dramatic demographic growth and spatial expansion over the past two decades of instability and warfare. Conflict-induced urbanization has rendered the cities’ property markets increasingly lucrative and, consequently, produced speculation and competition among private-sector actors vying for ownership of urban land. New institutions, or “rules of the game,” are layered over prior ones as state and non-state authorities attempt to manage an increasingly valuable and capitalized asset. This article draws from empirical data gathered in Beni and Goma, Democratic Republic of Congo, to explore cases of institutional change. In the first case, the state's property rights institutions are layered over customary institutions, while in the latter case, a neo-customary institution–the Baraza Intercommunautaire–is foisted upon extant state institutions to produce hybrid land tenure systems. Drawing from historical institutionalist notions of path dependence, this article concludes that institutions that emerge during periods of conflict are capable of sustaining long-range impacts on urban governance and development.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)211-231
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of Eastern African Studies
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 3 2018


  • Conflict
  • Democratic Republic of Congo
  • property rights institutions
  • real estate
  • urbanization

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • Anthropology
  • History
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Political Science and International Relations


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