How developers buy air from Juba land swindlers

How developers buy air from Juba land swindlers
A picture of houses under construction in Juba Two new residences (photo credit: Mamer Abraham/The City Review)

Trouble is brewing between landowners in Juba who bought a property but failed to erect structures on them only to find out that their assets had been sold to third parties.

Thon Pec, a senior army officer in South Sudan People’s Defence Forces (SSPDF) told The City Review that he bought three plots of land which cost him SSP360, 000 in 2014.

However, he did not stay for long in Juba to construct any structure and so the land he was resold to someone else when he went to Bentiu.

Thon accused the land committee of conspiring to sell his plots in his absence and refusing to refund the money or compensate him with other plots.

“She had been telling me that your pieces of land are there, I am cultivating on them. You will get them on your return,” he said.

He had bought three plots: his, one for his sister and another for his brother. But they all disappeared.

 He said, “What I want now is, even if I’m given only one plot, I shall build on it and bring my family here. Most of us soldiers who had assignments outside Juba don’t have plots in Juba here.”

Thon’s case is yet to be resolved by the members of the committee who are also accused of confusing and selling the same pieces of land to more than one buyer.

Last week, Mabior Atem, a former member of the local land committee found a new structure constructed on his plot.

Atem said he bought the land at SSP600,000 but his plot was almost taken by a man who he said was financially better than him. He said what saved him was the permanent house he set up on the land.

Sources disclosed that the man who wanted Atem’s property was shown another plot and that his house would be removed.

Although the committee is relocating some disgruntled buyers, complaints have emerged that the trend could interfere with the planning. 

Another victim of the land fraud, Lual Arok, narrated to The City Review how he bought a plot of land in 2018 from one of the inhabitants in Sherikat at SSP 350,000 only for the seller to sell off his plot plus the constructed rental houses. 

“I had no option but to claim my land but the landlord gave me SSP150,000 only. Since then, I had been going to his home with the police and when he sees me, he runs away. After he had realized I was disturbing his peace, he sold the land to a Major General in the army,” he explained. 

“One day, I went there but saw a heavy deployment of guards, I left silently and convinced myself that, why should I lose my life because of land. Since then, I left my 200,000 SSP not refunded today. I fear losing my life till now.”

Not us

On Tuesday, a member of the local land committee denied the allegations that they were selling land to more than one buyer. 

He said they were implementing the orders from the “higher authority’’ which instructed them to register only lands with houses erected in them and those without to be left to the state.

 “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.

Presidential directive

President Salva Kiir set up a committee to address land disputes within Juba and its suburbs in August 2021. 

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

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

The committee was tasked to investigate the causes of illegal 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 report monthly the progress to the President.

Military accused

Upon his swearing-in, the Mayor of Juba City Council Kalisto Lado 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.