By Bonifacio Taban Kuich
March 1, 2013 (BENTIU) - Nearly 900 returnees have been allocated land in Bentiu town for the first time after two years of being stranded in the state upon arrival from the Sudanese capital, Khartoum, ahead of South Sudan’s independence in July 2011.
On Friday officials from the oil-rich state officially handed over four blocks of land to the returnees. For the past two years returnees have been stranded at Bentiu Port and Transit camp just eight kilometres from Bentiu town. The transit camp housed 400-500 people.
Over half a million South Sudanese have returned from Sudan and East Africa in the last few years but adapting the conditions from South Sudanese cities has been a major challenge. Many returnees have struggled to get access to land to settle on.
Unity state, which borders Sudan, has received a high influx of returnees, the majority of which went to their original counties for settlement after returning from Khartoum. According to officials, the 900 returnees who have remained at the were left behind wants land allocation within Bentiu.
Lubna Abdelgani state Minister of Gender and Child Welfare says the contribution made by the state government in giving land to returnees is an important step.
’’We have today given 109 block to returnees coming from Khartoum who had been in transit camp for longtime, and from today onward they should feel free and interact with indigenous community of South Sudan particularly those living in Unity state, and now they should feel proudly to have ownership of land in the state’’, said Abdelgani.
The minister urged returnees to collaborate with the area’s resident to promote unity and become a loving community. She promised her ministry will work in cooperation with international organisations to facilitate their stay in the new blocks.
Having ownership of land or plots in town like Bentiu require fees payment. But state government says the land is free for returnees settlement.
Abraham Dak Turoah, the state minister of physical infrastructure in Unity state, said the land had been given to the returnees for free.
’’We are allocating land, this land we are giving you. No one should come and tell you to move away from here, you should keep the responsibility of your land entitlement for life and come generation of your children, and you should not go for bush this our capital city’’, added Turoal.
Mary Nyadiet Machar who came from Khartoum in 2011 says she felt happy after being given a plot of land.
’’We are happy, and congratulate South Sudan government, because the time has come to give us land for settlement, we still urges on the government to offer us services like water, good roads construction and even clearing for us farms in order to cultivate and improve country economics’’, said Machar.
Although the returnees have now acquired land they still face many challenges, such as lack of proper roads, electricity and water services.
The United Nations World Food Programme in collaboration with South Sudan Relief Commission are working towards giving the returnees three months of rations once they settle at their final destination.