The realisation of rights and enforcement of correlative duties through practice and politics legitimate the use of force against some, to protect and fulfil the rights of others. When a conflict occurs, whose rights and which rights should take priority require clarification. Land grabs represent a conflict not just between use and exchange values but also potentially between different types of rights – such as property rights and the right to the means of subsistence. In such cases, it seems that the dictum ‘between equal rights force decides’ seems to be particularly applicable. This paper explores recent experiences of displaced people in the Karamoja and Teso regions of North Eastern Uganda in order to examine this phenomenon. A socially inclusive and just epistemic perspective requires that we extend our gaze to take account of the local political dynamics and impacts on, and voices of, people who have been displaced and how their basic rights have been affected – ‘putting the last first’. The analysis suggests that the transition to formalised property regimes based on liberal conceptions of ‘rights’ represents a case where the language of rights is usurped to serve the interests of the powerful and privileged rather than challenging social injustice.