Community leaders in Juba accused of instigating land conflicts

Community leaders in Juba accused of instigating land conflicts
A picture of plots of land with newly constructed structures in Juba Two (photo credit: Mamer Abraham/The City Review)

Residents living in Juba Two and Sherikat have accused local leaders and the chiefs of instigating conflict by selling land to more than two people. 

A quick stroll from the Juba City central business district to an area nicknamed Juba Two, close to Sherikat and area, ushers one into a place full of strife, commotion and constant quarrels. Here, there is serious competition over land ownership as people erect buildings in any piece of land irrespective of whether the land is owned by someone else or not. 

Several residents living in the area told The City Review yesterday that, a piece of land could be sold to more than one person. They said a plot of land can be sold to one person and before the buyer erects any structure on, it is again hurriedly sold to another person.

The initial buyer is subjected to torture because there is no compensation from the same surveyors who first sold the land.

“You see now, this person wants to build a house here and after this, he will build another one on the other side to protect the land because they do not sell a land with a roofed house in it,” said Awai Garang said.

A resident identified as Deng Garang said the practice is done with impunity, and victims’ quests for justice normally bear no fruits. It is expansive land fraud where the perpetrators are relied upon as arbitrators. 

“The same people who sell [still handle land disputes]. This is why they keep on confusing people,” said Deng.

“They have constructed big houses there and… This money does not even reach the City Council.”

There had been several cases involving land sales within Juba where many residents had been complaining of similar incidences which led to fights and sometimes deaths.

Not us

A member of the local land committee who spoke anonymously dismissed the claims calling it propaganda, saying it could injure the reputation of local leaders.

The source denied the complaints that they often sell a piece of land to more than one person, saying the problem came from ‘‘higher authorities’’ after they ordered that any land without a structure in it belongs to the government although some payments had been made.

“The people who give orders have the problem, they say a person who has constructed a house should be registered…they don’t register an empty plot because the government takes them and give them to people whom they want to give. We don’t sell land again to another person,” he said as he denied allegations.

Last Saturday, a man was entangled in a land ownership dispute with a local chief after he learned that a house had been erected in a plot he had already built on. He accused the chief of Juba Two and his team of confusing people.

But the Chief said that he (initial buyer) would be relocated to another land, a statement which caused much confusion.

The land committee member said they charged land registration at SSP10,000 and demarcation of boundaries at SSP10,000 as well. 

Despite such payments, without a constructed structure on the plot, the initial buyer could end up without land when another active person shows up.

Many cases have ensued including the burning of grass thatched houses by land grabbers so that they could get a chance to build in the plot. 

Presidential directive

In August, President Salva Kiir set up a committee to settle land disputes within Juba and its suburbs. 

He appointed the national Minister of Land, Housing and Urban Development Michael Chiengjiek as a co-chair of the committee to work with the Governor of Central Equatoria State Emmanuel Adil Anthony to resolve persistent cases of land grabbing in Juba.

The Chief of Defense Forces, Inspector General of Police, Director-General of Internal Security Bureau (ISB), National Security Service and the Commissioner of Juba County were among the twelve members of the committee.

The committee was to find out the causes of informal settlement and land grabbing and study the customary informal land management systems and practices in Juba within six months.

According to the decree, the committee was to develop strategies that could be used to end land disputes and would report every month the progress to the President.

Military accused

Upon his swearing-in, the Mayor of Juba City Council Kalisto Ladu Faustino blamed the high-ranking military officers for perpetuating land grabbing in Juba.

Kalisto promised to return lands grabbed to their ‘‘rightful owners’’ urging inhabitants to give lands they have illegally occupied to the City Council.

“Whoever builds on the land allocated to the police should return it. Whoever builds his house on the road calling himself a big person, the government is bigger than you,” Mayor was quoted as saying.

In March, the Central Equatoria State security meeting chaired by the governor decided that legal action should be taken against land grabbers in the state.

“There are issues of land grabbing which were reported and the meeting resolved that the security apparatus and the legal authorities take action. Whoever is found to be involved in issues of land grabbing must be arrested and prosecuted accordingly,” state minister of local government and law enforcement Moro Genesio, said after the meeting in Juba.

Earlier, chiefs in Rejaf Payam are said to have written a letter dated February 10 to the governor of Central Equatoria State asking him to relocate internally displaced persons to their home towns and villages.