Land problem in South Sudan must be addressed fast

Land problem in South Sudan must be addressed fast

The land issue in South Sudan is often complicated by the confusion associated with legal land ownership. The constitution clearly states that the land belongs to the community but the parallels and discrepancies between provisions in the laws and practice on the ground have led to several land conflicts, mainly fueled by the absence of sound government policies on land ownership.

Last week there were several reports and complaints about land grabbing in a residential area dubbed as ‘Juba Two’, which neighbours Sherikat of Rajef Payam. Some individuals raised concerns about their already acquired plots being sold out. Some of them said they had bought the plots at SSP 100,000 to SSP300, 000, and now the local authorities decided to resell the same to the potential buyers who paid them to double the price.  

While those people may have faithfully and honestly bought the plots, what look so contradicting are the procedures used in acquiring them. Sometimes you fail to understand how those plots were acquired.

A question that comes to mind is: were they issued by the authorities, communities, or they were dished out through the Darwin Theory of the survival of the fittest, where one can just enter into the forest and demarcate a huge portion of land for settlement ad then follows up the registration with the authorities.

The lack of proper law regarding land ownership and the procedures which some people use for acquiring land has been the major cause of land conflict in towns across the country, especially in the capital Juba.

There is a need for the parliament to complete the discussion on the amendment of the Land Act, to avoid conflict between the government and the community over ownership of land.

 In most cases, the communities tend to sell land to the individuals based on the argument that the land belongs to the community which many times have resulted in a confrontation.

There have been several confrontations either between the government and the community. Some of the battles have spilt over to include investors, individuals, and the government elites. This has encouraged the tendency of land grabbing in the country.

The country needs to have clear land policies and laws to avoid a further scramble for land ownership. Last week,  there was a serious demonstration in Northern Bahr el Ghazal State over land ownership issues. A community in the state is rejecting the return of their two payams to one of the counties. They considered the decision as the annexation of their land.

Meanwhile, in Juba, another group that supports the relocation of the administration to the mentioned area accused the area governor of not supporting the return of the administration to the said county. However, authorities in the state have denied any link to the border conflict in the state. So, these are some of the issues that the government needs to address amicably without dragging the locals into conflict.