March 6, 2012 (JUBA) – More than five people have been killed and more wounded over a land dispute in Juba. The incident pushed President Salva Kiir to deploy security forces to stop the violence and maintain security and calm in the South Sudan’s capital.
- Recruits for the Southern Sudan Police Service (SSPS) perform a training exercise at their academy in Rajaf, South Sudan, 7 October 2010 (UN)
The clashes erupted over two days, on Sunday and Monday, between members of the Bari community and non-Bari, particularly the Dinka and Nuer inhabitants in the capital, north of Munuki area.
Authorities say the fighting erupted when a group of armed men believed to be from the Bari community came in a pickup truck and attacked people from an area called Kamiru which is predominantly inhabited by Dinka and Nuer, accusing them of stealing their land.
This came after an argument on Sunday involving members from the Bari community, although other sources claimed that they were land officers from Central Equatoria state, and members from Nuer and Dinka communities over ownership of some plots of land in the area.
The attackers opened fire and killed a man and a child before driving off, prompting some of the inhabitants to react by attacking the homes in the neighbourhood which they suspected of belonging to the Bari community. A number of houses were burnt down, leaving at least 8 people dead.
On Tuesday, relatives of the deceased carried the dead bodies to the South Sudan’s parliament and criticised the government for not responding to the incident which involved the use of firearms.
However, heavy deployment of military police around the area was witnessed by Sudan Tribune reporters on Monday.
The commissioner of Juba County, Peter Ladu Gore, while addressing the mourners on Tuesday, said the incident will be dealt with by the national government.
Speaking to the press shortly after briefing President Salva Kiir Mayardit on Tuesday about the incidents, Interior Minister Alison Manani Magaya, said Kiir had appreciated steps taken by his ministry to address the issue but directed security organisations to maintain law and order while urging the parties involving the conflict to restrain from violence.
"The police and security forces have been deployed to the site. They are in control of the situation" Magaya told reporters, while admitting that five people had been killed and 3 others had sustained serious injuries.
Magaya denied reports claiming that seven people were killed in the clash. "This is very unfortunate incident but it is not true that seven people have been killed. Our reports indicate 4 lives have been lost," Magaya explained. Independent sources told Sudan Tribune that actually at least ten people were killed during the clashes.
Governor of Central Equatoria state, Clement Wani Konga, at the same press briefing announced that the demolition in Block 107 is suspended for a special arrangement to be carried out to relocate those who will be affected by the exercise to a new site. He called for calm and people to refrain from taking revenge between the communities.
He explained to the press that the clashes in Gudele and Kamiru village came as a result of a land dispute between some individuals of Bari community of Kamiru Village, and some soldiers displaced from New Site.
"Let us not politicise this issue. This is an administrative matter. We appeal to our people to understand our position and respond. We have stopped the demolition exercise. It will not continue," announced Governor Konga
The incident sparked serious on air discussions on South Sudan radio on Monday and Tuesday with accusations and counter-accusations between the rival communities.
Land conflicts over Juba city has been going on for several years since the establishment of the government of South Sudan in 2005. Members of the host community, the Bari, have been since accusing inhabitants from other states of grabbing their land. They also accused them of not following the legal procedures of acquiring land through the Central Equatoria state’s ministry of physical infrastructure.
However, non-Bari residents also accuse Bari community of not behaving as if Juba is the federal capital for all South Sudanese, but treating others like aliens. They also say the state authority is deliberately refusing to process applications from citizens coming from Greater Bahr el Ghazal and Greater Upper Nile regions.
They also accuse them of allegedly targeting and demolishing homes of non-Bari which are well built, with concrete materials, when carrying out road surveys.
Bari chiefs who claim that land belongs to the community are also criticised for allocating lands and selling them to non-Bari residents only to renege on the agreements and reclaim the territory as stolen land.
The national government of South Sudan last year resolved to relocate the federal capital to Ramciel in the centre of the country, saying Juba will not unite the people of South Sudan as their national capital.
The decision to maintain Juba as the capital during the six year interim period came when a group of Bari elders and intellectuals met with the late SPLM leader, John Garang, in Nairobi before the signing of the CPA and protested against the then plan by the SPLM to move the capital to Ramciel.
The latest incident in the capital is the deadliest land dispute since 2005. Non-Bari members from other regions over the FM talk shows accused the Bari of allegedly being agitated by Khartoum to initiate insecurity in the capital as part of its agenda to destabilise South Sudan, an allegation denied by the Bari.
A member of South Sudan’s parliament, Tongun Ladu, who represents the Munuki constituency where the incident took place, was accused by the residents of inciting the violence against non-Bari at the site.
Ladu denied the accusations, saying that he just recovered from illness and could not have been involved in the violence.
However, the Bari chief in the area, who allegedly sold the plots to the non-Bari and later on reclaimed them, was reportedly arrested by the authorities.
On Tuesday, a group of people from Central Equatoria state protested in the streets of Juba and matched to the South Sudan’s parliament singing the slogans “we shall never surrender” while displaying their dead in front of the parliament building.