Home | Comment & Analysis    Friday 8 February 2013

Land grabbing may soon be of the past


By Jacob K. Lupai

February 8, 2013 - Recently land grabbing in and around Juba has hit news headlines. The Citizen newspaper of Friday, January 25, 2013 – Vol.7. Issue No. 356 had as a lead news headline ‘Interior Ministry Orders Arrest of Land Grabbers and Associates in Juba’. The same newspaper of Friday, February 1, 2013 – Vol.7. Issue No. 363 also had as a lead story ‘Police Fired in Air to Scare Land Grabbers in Tongpiny” on the front page.

The order to arrest land grabbers and associates in and around Juba must have been a far reaching relief to the many victims of land grabbing. The national government had been dead silent about land grabbing in and around Juba and the state government of Central Equatoria was neither helpful. The awakening of the national government to the menace of land grabbing is something that is highly commendable.

The awakening of the national government clearly shows that land grabbing may soon be a thing of the past. However, persistent action against land grabbing is most needed with adequate resources provided to law enforcing agencies. One problem is poorly handled eviction of land grabbers.

Genesis of land grabbing
South Sudan fought two wars of liberation. The first war was between 1955 and 1972 and the second between 1983 and 2005. When the first war ended with peace realized land grabbing was unheard of. However when the second war ended and peace was once again realized land grabbing appeared with unprecedented shock to landowners and indigenous people. Some of those who were in the frontline during the second war of liberation assumed it was their God-given right to help themselves to any piece of land their eyes could see regardless of who owned the land.

The situation turned ugly to landowners who were either threatened or intimidated with the unfortunate ones either beaten up or shot. This was done in broad day light by people who would be very proud to call themselves liberators. However, true liberators do not in any way harm those they have liberated. Only pseudo liberators do and there are many of them masquerading as true liberators. It is not difficult to see the genesis of land grabbing in and around Juba. It is lack of nationalism replaced by greed.

Land grabbing and the rule of law
The Transitional Constitution of the Republic of South Sudan, 2011 is very clear about the right to own property. Article 28 (1, 2) in part stipulates that every person shall have the right to acquire or own property as regulated by law and no private property may be expropriated save by law in the public interest. The transitional constitution is also clear about landownership. Article 171 (6a) says private land shall include registered land held by any person under leasehold tenure in accordance with the law. However, in defiance of the constitution and law, land grabbers do not spare private registered land either.

In can be seen that land grabbing is unconstitutional and unlawful. Land grabbers therefore deserve to face the rule of law. However, probably due to the lack of clearly spelt out policy on land grabbing, grabbers have often escaped being apprehended and punished. Nevertheless, the courts of law have been doing their best in reverting grabbed land or property to their legitimate owners. The problem, however, has been the execution of court orders. Quite often court orders have not been executed as expected to the satisfaction of landowners.

Land grabbers defy court orders by either chasing away law enforcing personnel or simply do not respond at all to any court order. The dead silence of the national and state governments seemed to have encouraged land grabbers to be defiant with impunity.

Government intervention
Government intervention is badly needed to address the serious security problem of land grabbing in order to make it a thing of the past. Land grabbing has been a thorn in the flesh of landowners and a security risk to the nation. It has also been poisoning community relations, polarizing individuals and communities thereby making national unity less achievable.

Land grabbers are insensitive people who do not care about what their actions do to the security and unity of the country. It was probably on this basis that the Deputy Minister of Interior, Lt General Salva Mathok Gengdit, as quoted by the Citizen newspaper of January 25, 2013, issued an order to the police to arrest land grabbers in Juba with immediate effect. That was one of the most expected government intervention in land grabbing issues. One can only applaud loudly the Deputy Minister of Interior for this courageous and farsighted move.

The Deputy Minister was very decisive and this is what is needed in building this young nation to realize peace and prosperity for all. Traumatised landowners and the public at large must be very happy to hear and learn that the Ministry of Interior is asking organized forces/authorities to order their personnel not to be involved in illegal practice of land grabbing. Hopefully the Ministry of Interior has a monitoring unit to verify that indeed illegal practice of land grabbing is under control.

The way forward
The Ministry of Interior has already set the way forward. What can be added is that the illegal use of firearms to intimidate and terrorise innocent law abiding civilians out of their land or property should be addressed forthwith. Some personnel from organized forces keep firearms and are ready to produce or display them in a menacing manner to frighten landowners. This suggests indiscipline and disobedient personnel of organized forces should be severely punished as a deterrent to others not to attempt to use firearms to intimidate people.

It is difficult to understand why and how the personnel of organized forces should be keeping firearms in their houses, in what is supposed to be peace time, with the sole aim of being bossy and to frighten people. Firearms are support to be for the protection of people but not to intimidate the very people to be protected.

The Ministry of Interior should have done a good job if it can declare it a criminal offence for any personnel of organized forces to display firearms with the intention of intimidating people. Soldiers must be obedient or else they are not the soldiers to promote harmony and peace in the society.

The order by the Deputy Minister of Interior, Lt General Salva Mathok Gengdit, will go a long way to address the problem of land grabbing in and around Juba. People want to see such bold decisions being taken for good governance in the country. The Deputy Minister of Interior has set a precedent that should encourage others in the system to contribute positively to nation building. There is a yearning for good governance that is sensitive and responsive to the aspirations of the people.

It must be acknowledged that the Deputy Minister of Interior stands out as somebody who cares about this young nation living in harmony and in peace with itself. Nobody can afford to build this nation on land grabbing perpetuated through tribal lines. People must rise above tribal lines by upholding the rule of law. Land grabbers are law breakers and rebellious against the transitional constitution that guarantees people’s right to own land and property. By illegally grabbing somebody’s land, the land grabber is committing a criminal offence that should be punished under the law as a deterrent. Institutional weakness of law enforcing agencies should also be addressed to tackle effectively land grabbing.

The Deputy Minister of Interior should liaise with his counterpart in the Ministry of Defense and SPLA Affairs, and also with the state government for effective coordination in tackling land grabbing in and around Juba. Most dangerous land grabbers are people in uniform keeping firearms to protect their illegal activities. It is this component of land grabbers that is posing the real security risk in and around Juba. This becomes very serious when land grabbing takes tribal lines. However, it is a delight that the national government has become acutely aware of the menace of land grabbing and the resultant effect on the unity of people and the country.

In conclusion, it is in the best interest of security, peace and unity of this young nation that land grabbing should be brought to a speedy end by all means so that it is a thing of the past.

The author can be reached at jklupai@googlemail.com

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  • 8 February 2013 13:14, by Tutbol

    Quite an envoking piece Mr. Lupai, if the natives of the lands are swept off their lands by the supposedly people who fought to liberate the same natives to have their lands & their way of lives & to restore to them? Then have veered off the SPLM ways. Anyway, the our current leaders forgot the most brilliant boys than them who died in battle fields to purposely for a villager in S Sudan to have..

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    • 8 February 2013 13:27, by Tutbol

      ... a piece of pie. But now our opportunists liberators consider that liberation is over. But they are deluded, the EXTERNAL, forces behind our owes are working day & night to make S Sudan another EASTERN CONGO, where they can scoop out their resources amidst the MESS, but our current Juba high classes are so dumb, they can,t rein-in their criminals in our state’s umiforms.

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      • 8 February 2013 16:29, by LL Reuben

        Prior to the year 2005 – that is more than a half of a century if you pick it up from the time Sudan got her independence from the Brits colonial rulers, ‘the issue of land-grab’ had never existed. I have never heard any intellectual from the owners of Juba voicing a concern in a published opinion about how Arabs were grabbing their land in Juba and using it to their advantage...

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        • 8 February 2013 16:32, by LL Reuben

          Fascinating enough you would think for the writer (Lupai) who thinks “Kokora was grossly misunderstood” for what its architects had intended it for but as seen here its seemed obvious that the fashion in this writer’s tone replicate what everyone thought “ Kokora” is/was...

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          • 8 February 2013 16:39, by LL Reuben

            “Land-grabbing” stories are becoming more tenacious and aren’t going anywhere as long as those who are being accused of forcefully grabbing Equatorian lands (Dinka) don’t move away from Equatoria. Other suggested gimmicks for example the notion that if everyone acquire land legally everything will be fine and Juba will be peaceful for all Southerners is a dishonest attempt by those hiding...

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            • 8 February 2013 17:02, by LL Reuben

              From their demons which are driving them absolutely insane and facilitating them to magnify the issue of land grab out of it ordinary, and now it has become one that is ripping a young country apart – what a shame! I don’t see what is precious about the town of Juba. People who don’t belong there should just leave and the indigenous of the land be left to enjoy...

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              • 8 February 2013 17:06, by LL Reuben

                their town in peace and harmony. If the excuse is because the establishment of the government is sited in Juba, relocate the main organs to another town of the other 7 states that are not Equatoria and see what happen. During the bush days nothing was not accomplished because SPLM/A was not stationed in Juba, in fact it was hard to capture Juba because the indigenous were collaborating with Arabs

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                • 8 February 2013 17:07, by LL Reuben

                  ..maybe they favor the treatment they got from Arab better to how the Dinka is treating them now.

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                  • 9 February 2013 14:33, by Tutbol

                    LL Reuban so you are called, you are barking on something you don’t have a clue what it is all about? I think you are one these lowly educated who think, they can award themselves what they didn’t deserved. If the govt seat was to be in Bor, Malakal or other capitals, & their lands is just usurped for being the national capital without the natives being paid for their lands to relocate else where.

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                    • 9 February 2013 14:56, by Tutbol

                      .. if all at all there is no short-changing of the natives of their properties. Then the like of LL Reuban only wants to hide out their supposed intergrity; when they they are the same most dubious land usurpers in the name of liberators & have never have not even heard a SWISH sound of a bullet. SWINDLERSS!

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                      • 9 February 2013 18:45, by LL Reuben

                        Sir, I doubted that you’ve read all I wrote up there, I think you should’ve before you unleashed on me. I am not against the natives of Juba and their rights to be compensated for their land. Having acknowledged that I also felt like this entire issue of land grabbing saga has been blown out of proportion by those with hidden agendas.

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                        • 9 February 2013 18:48, by LL Reuben

                          Juba is the purported capital of the country don’t you think Juba should be everybody’s city? Should it be just the Bari city? There’re two levels of government seated in Juba one being the federal and the other being the state of Central Equatoria government. If the federal government possessed the elements that are soliciting the land-grab because majority of them are none Equatoria therefore..

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                          • 9 February 2013 18:49, by LL Reuben

                            prone to land grabbing, the state government which is composed of indigenous of the land should find a way to solve the issue that is affecting its citizens. What have the Central Equatoria state government done amid this; did they leave it to Lupai to address it, and is this the most effective and efficient way to do it?

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                            • 9 February 2013 18:52, by LL Reuben

                              What evidences suggest those who’re grabbing lands in Juba do so in proclamation that they liberated the town? “Swindlers”, that’s a little harsh don’t you think? Did you intended that for me or is that how you feel about the entire Dinka society? I maybe a “SWINDLER” and a “lowly educated” who’ve never heard “SWISH sound of a bullet” but I will tell you this, and that is we’re all “clueless”..

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                              • 9 February 2013 18:53, by LL Reuben

                                about how to solve this land grabbing and the testimony is why we’re still talking about it in 2013. Keep up the good work! I am a fan of your analyses especially the ones with innuendoes about European and so forth.

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    • 19 February 2013 21:52, by John Lemi Stephen


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  • 8 February 2013 13:53, by featured globe

    Shameless,hopeless and homeless land grabbers with their shameless lawyers will one day faces the truth not the law any more coz the law itself gives them the right to grabbed people heritages, dry ur hay as the sun still shines

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    • 9 February 2013 05:00, by Mi diit

      Yes land grabbing is bad and a crime we all know. But some Equatorian intellectuals are emotional people to the point that they don’t understand the difference between a capital city, which belongs to every body, and a native village. Do they expect other South Sudanese not to own land in Juba? Why is Central Equatoria refusing to give lands to others in a legal manner??? Provocative state!!!

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      • 9 February 2013 09:09, by Mapuor

        For rational beings,some issues need careful consideration.This article mentioned SPLA as those responsible for land grabbing.Who took those SPLA officers,NCO’s and men to Juba to grab Bari land?Its the government,where do the government expect those soldiers and their families stay in? in the air?is it possible?Did any one try it before?is he living in the air now?Why don’t we see him?

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  • 9 February 2013 14:30, by Majongdit

    Mr. Jacob Lupai,
    We shall wait to see where your tribalism will take you.
    Very soon every word you said shall just be met in the same manner you express it. You are not even convincing as a writer; and most of your articles are boring - just almost all of them. Everyone community has land. You know why land has become much of an issue in Juba is because the gov’t is seated there.

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  • 11 February 2013 16:49, by Rengo Gyyw Rengo, Jr.

    Dr. Lupai,
    I appreciate your writings on national issues, although your article has shot at the shadow. The problem is not landgrabbing as such but land policy, be it by CEG or GOSS. Who owns the land? who settles the land and how? Land ownership and management is a problem. Image I want to build a school but can not find land anywhere in Juba. Let them survey,map and demarcate plots, for legal bu

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  • 11 February 2013 16:56, by Rengo Gyyw Rengo, Jr.

    Dr. Lupai, the whole land in Bortown is surveyed into blocks and plots. One can purchase a legal plot without any problem. In Juba, for one to rent a house or be given a land, you are judged by where you come from. I wish they can survey,Juba-Nimule road, Juba-Torit Road, Juba-Bor Road, Juba-Ramchel Road, into plots. It is nasty when you have money but you can not find legal plot to buy.

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  • 11 February 2013 17:03, by Rengo Gyyw Rengo, Jr.

    Where Liberators or not, without land for public and citizens to buy and settle, politicizing it isn’t a solution. We must face the beast head-on, "how tribalism affects land policy in South Sudan". If you want full article on this, offer our people solution by advising the government on how to handle it. You know I am also frustrated. I can not build my school in Juba. Thanks

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