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عربي

Land disputes on the rise in Aweil as bribes flow

Hou Akot Hou
Land grabbing is a hot topic in Aweil town, in Northern Bahr el-Ghazal State, where bribery and land theft is widespread, locals report.
4.03.2013  |  Aweil
Aerial view of Aweil, the capital of Northern Bahr el-Ghazal State, October 21, 2007.
Aerial view of Aweil, the capital of Northern Bahr el-Ghazal State, October 21, 2007.

Residents of Maper-North residential area and Riang-Aluel-Weng say most of their villagers are being evicted and their land is then given to high-profile officials in the state government.

It’s very difficult to own land permanently here in Aweil particularly at Riang-Aluel-Weng,” said Akot Deng, a local resident. Someone who claims to be a boss could come and say ‘get out of this place’, and when you ask why they instruct you to leave your house.”

Someone who claims to be a boss could come and say ‘get out of this place’.”
Akot Deng
He said documents often showed that a local’s home actually belonged to an official. This is a big pressing issue here,” he said.

The lands at Riang-Aluel-Weng were allegedly surveyed two years ago, but title-deeds have still not been issued.

Even if you have completed the procedures of acquiring land, you can find out that your land has been given out to someone else,” he said, adding that the poorest were at greatest risk from the land-grabbing trend.

Locals said lands with temporary shanty shelters had become easy targets.

An absence of land policies and a wider legal framework has added to tensions between the local residents and officials, residents complained.

We are poor people: we can’t afford paying that money.”
Angeth Deng
Angeth Deng, a local woman whose house is close to the Aweil-Aroyo road, said the surveyors told them to leave their homes so the land can be re-surveyed. Officials tell us that we need to go away from our homes here at Riang-Aluel-Weng,” she told The Niles. They say if one fails to get out then he or she can pay 7,000 SSP so he is allowed to live there, but we are poor people: we can’t afford paying that money.”
 
Officials at the Physical Infrastructure Ministry, which is in charge of distributing land, say those complaints do not correspond with the South Sudan land ACT policy which gives every individual access to land.

William Anyuon Kuol, a town planner at the physical infrastructure Ministry, says they are increasingly transparent in issuing lands to the individuals in Aweil.

Now we are giving investment areas to investors regardless of whether you are an American, or an Arab. There is nothing discriminatory about what the Ministry is doing. We are transparent and we give the land accordingly,” Anyuon explains.

We are transparent and we give the land accordingly.”
William Anyuon Kuol
Anyuon adds that they plan to go to Riang-Aluel-Weng and Maper-Akot Aru to check on areas disputed by locals and government employees.

Residents told The Niles, however, that many controversial cases are still in unresolved in court. They say it is hard to establish the truth in land-grabbing cases as the evidence is often clouded by the payment of secret bribes to surveyors.