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عربي

Development in South Sudan hinges on land disputes

Deng Machol
After South Sudan became a nation in its own right, hundreds of thousands of South Sudanese became foreigners in Sudan. Many decided to return to their former homes in South Sudan, but life has not been easy for…
30.06.2013  |  Bor
Returnees in Bentiu dance in joy after officials announce that land has been allocated for the returnees, March 1.
Returnees in Bentiu dance in joy after officials announce that land has been allocated for the returnees, March 1.

 

After returning home many have been stranded in temporary camps, struggling to fulfil their basic needs. Others are struggling to find a plot of land to start their new lives. 
The South Sudanese diaspora is huge: a legacy from the more than two-decade-long civil war. The influx of returnees has intensified conflict over land. Many are trying to reclaim their rights to land which once belonged to their father, mother or other relatives. Such cases are tough to prove and the dilemmas occur nation-wide. 
Fanning the flames of the disputes, many people control pieces of land they do not have the right to, sites where they have built a house and a fence and claim that the plot is theirs.
Post-war conflict over land is to be tackled as part of the long-wait land policy, as presented by the Chairperson for South Sudan Land Commission, Robert Ladu in February. It aims to solve problems like land acquisition and management, such as post-war conflict over land rights, informal settlement in towns and cities, and access to lands with pasture and water.
But the politicians have their work cut out. Land conflicts are everywhere: Even penetrating the heart of the new state. Juba city, the nation’s capital, is claimed by both Central Equatoria State Government and the Government of the Republic of South Sudan, prompting the government’s decision last year to relocate the capital to Ramciel, in Lakes State. 
Clashes between returnees and other citizens are fuelled by the fact that many villages, payams and the counties have contested areas and lack clear demarcation. These conflicts stem from decades of arguments and violent raids, especially in areas rich in natural resources. The failure to solve these disputes in a timely manner has set the stage for further strife following the arrival of South Sudanese from abroad. 
In my opinion, development in South Sudan hinges on land disputes. Only when these issues are resolved can the country move on and improve the lives of both long-standing residents and the returnees.

After returning home many have been stranded in temporary camps, struggling to fulfil their basic needs. Others are struggling to find a plot of land to start their new lives. 

The South Sudanese diaspora is huge: a legacy from the more than two-decade-long civil war. The influx of returnees has intensified conflict over land. Many are trying to reclaim their rights to land which once belonged to their father, mother or other relatives. Such cases are tough to prove and the dilemmas occur nation-wide. 

Fanning the flames of the disputes, many people control pieces of land they do not have the right to, sites where they have built a house and a fence and claim that the plot is theirs.

Post-war conflict over land is to be tackled as part of the long-wait land policy, as presented by the Chairperson for South Sudan Land Commission, Robert Ladu in February. It aims to solve problems like land acquisition and management, such as post-war conflict over land rights, informal settlement in towns and cities, and access to lands with pasture and water.

But the politicians have their work cut out. Land conflicts are everywhere: Even penetrating the heart of the new state. Juba city, the nation’s capital, is claimed by both Central Equatoria State Government and the Government of the Republic of South Sudan, prompting the government’s decision last year to relocate the capital to Ramciel, in Lakes State. 

Clashes between returnees and other citizens are fuelled by the fact that many villages, payams and the counties have contested areas and lack clear demarcation. These conflicts stem from decades of arguments and violent raids, especially in areas rich in natural resources. The failure to solve these disputes in a timely manner has set the stage for further strife following the arrival of South Sudanese from abroad. 

In my opinion, development in South Sudan hinges on land disputes. Only when these issues are resolved can the country move on and improve the lives of both long-standing residents and the returnees.