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In Search of Order: Property Rights Enforcement in Kibera Settlement, Kenya

28 Pages Posted: 13 Aug 2008  

Sandra Fullerton Joireman

University of Richmond

Rachel Sweet

Northwestern University

Date Written: August 11, 2008


In Kibera, Nairobi Kenya's largest slum, getting property rights enforced is no simple matter. Structures are owned by one person and rented by another, neither of whom have rights to the land on which the structure stands. Rental contracts are the subject of frequent dispute for residents and government conflict resolution mechanisms are inaccessible. Using structured interviews and working with local community based organizations we were able to identify three different mechanisms for contract enforcement that developed apart from the formal government channel: 1) bureaucratic entrepreneurs willing to act outside of their area of authority; 2) community based organizations; and 3) ethnic gangs. All of these mechanisms assist people in getting their property rights contracts enforced. In this paper we establish a rubric for the assessment of welfare maximization based on extant literature in new institutional economics. We discuss each of these contract enforcement institutions and evaluate them against the rubric. We find that these organically developed solutions to the inaccessibility of government mechanisms for contact enforcement are not obviously superior to the formal institutions.

Keywords: Africa, Kenya, property, law, institutions

JEL Classification: O17, O18, R31

Suggested Citation

Joireman, Sandra Fullerton and Sweet, Rachel, In Search of Order: Property Rights Enforcement in Kibera Settlement, Kenya (August 11, 2008). Available at SSRN: or

Sandra Joireman (Contact Author)

University of Richmond ( email )

28 Westhampton Way
Dept of Political Science
Richmond, VA 23173
United States
(804) 289-8529 (Phone)

Rachel Sweet

Northwestern University ( email )

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