By Gen: Stephen Buay Rolnyang.
Background: Land means the surface of the earth and the earth below the surface and all substances other than minerals and petroleum below the surface. Land is a common property of the people of South Sudan which shall not be subjected to sale or any other means of exchange.
The customary use of land has been revoked since we gained the independence of the Republic of South Sudan and is supposed to be replaced with the national and state laws that shall manage and regulate the use of land. Land can be divided into urban and communal village land. The portion of land in the urban area is supposed to be allocated to a citizen under an urban land Act that shall be made by the legislative branch while the portion of land in the village is supposed to be allocated to a villager or a group of villagers or new settler(s) by village council under the village land Act.
The management of land is supposed to be vested in the National Ministry of Land and Land Commission through the national government to regulate the use of land on behalf of the citizens using the law and policy of the land made by the government and legislative branch. The rights and interests of the citizens in the land shall not be taken without due process of law and a full and fair compensation can be made when land is acquired. Citizens must participate in decision-making on matters related to their occupation or use of land. The national or state government has a right to seize the land of a citizen for public purposes and compensate the owner at fair market value. The national and state governments should regulate and demarcate the land for the following purposes: Residential areas, market areas, institutional areas, industrial and mining areas, roads, rail networks and stations, parks, reserved land for (Wildlife), forest, agricultural areas, pastoral area for livestock, recreational areas for (Leisure and Sports), airports and hazard land (Swamps, wetlands,
dumping site for hazardous waste, riverbank etc. which Should not be developed on account of its fragile nature).
On 18 August 1955, South Sudanese people mutinied in Torit against the Arab regime in the old Sudan and the mutiny spread to all other towns and areas in Southern Sudan. As a result, the other South Sudanese (Non- Equatorians) believed that the Equatoria became the source and base of rebellion and willingly started to move to the Equatoria region with or without their families, relatives, and friends to join the war of liberation struggle.
When the peace agreement was signed in 1972, Juba was made the capital city of Southern Sudan and all non-Equatorians who were in the Anyanya-I around the bushes of the greater Equatoria region and those who got assigned to the regional government came to Juba with their families, relatives, and friends, and with time acquired and built portions of land and became citizens in Juba. “Indigenous communities in greater Equatoria did not go along with this kind of development, they began to hate the presence of the non-Equatorians which created hatred and hostilities’ between the non-Equatorians and Equatorian natives in Juba and other towns in greater Equatoria region.
in 1983, The Sudan People’s Liberation Movement and the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLM/A), was formed to continue to fight for the war of liberation struggle after the Anyanya movements failed to achieve the independence of the Republic of South Sudan. The SPLM/A became a formidable and robust resistant movement that deployed thousands of forces in Upper Nile, Bahr El Ghazal and greater Equatoria capturing towns and establishing bases around greater Equatoria and in the process the SPLA forces gradually brought their families, relatives, and friends to be with them in their bases or trenches around greater Equatoria region until a peace agreement was signed in 2005, between the SPLM/A and the National Congress Party (NCP) and Juba was re-confirmed as the capital city for the government of Southern Sudan (GOSS) and consequently, there was a massive influx of government and military officials who got assigned at the national level and those who came to Juba willingly to look
2 for greener pastures. Juba has become a crowded city, and everyone wants to acquire a portion of land to build for their families, relatives, and friends. Because there is no proper land regulation, this has inflamed serious hatred between non-Bari and Bari indigenous communities who call it a land grabbing in Juba, a contagious term which quickly spread to other towns in greater Equatoria region where non-Equatorians especially Dinka and Nuer are asked to leave Equatoria region and go back to their home area of origin.
Dinka Bor herders in Greater Equatoria.
The Dinka Bor cattle herders started to move their cattle camps to the greater Equatoria region during the SPLM/A-split in 1991, and other subsequent crises in greater Jonglei. They were initially welcomed by the host communities, especially in central and eastern Equatoria, but with time, the local communities began to accuse them of overstaying and destroying their farms and crops and not abiding by the local laws and want them to go back to their ancestral land. On the other hand, the herders argue that there are still some hostilities in greater Jonglei that cannot allow them to go back with their cattle until the situation returns to complete normalcy. Subsequently, the situation has escalated into deadly clashes between the herders and local communities in central and eastern Equatoria causing displacement, death and serious hatred between the cattle herders and the host communities who are influenced by their respective local, state, and national officials. Meanwhile, the regime is unable to act because its hands are tied and incapacitated politically and tribally. The hatred and conflict between the cattle herders and local communities continued to escalate into serious clashes in Kajo-Keji on 24 January 2023, where some heads of Bor cattle were shot down indiscriminately in the forest and as a result, 20 youths were killed by Bor herders on 2 February 2023.
During the negotiations of the comprehensive peace agreement, especially on the oil sharing, Dr John Garang used the idea that the land belongs to the community so that he would take the bigger portion of the oil, he did not mean that the land belongs to the community and the government has no
3 say in it. of course, the land is owned by the local community, but its management and policies lie in the hands of the government of the Republic of South Sudan to regulate and manage it on behalf of the community. If we say, the land belongs to the community and the government has no say in it, what about the oil in Western Upper Nile and Upper Nile (Bentiu and Paloch), which is being managed by the government, in case the local community refuses it to be used or managed by the government, what will happen?
Juba city is now congested and nearly exploded because of the lack of space simply because the Bari community does not allow the people to be given plots to build for themselves, because of the extreme hatred against the non-Equatorians who they call the land grabbers. Most of the non- Equatorians come to Juba because Juba is the capital city of the country, and not because there is something good in it for the people to grab. Nobody would like to leave their birthplace and come to loiter in Juba without doing anything for a living, everybody loves his/her birthplace. The Bari community wants the capital city to be moved from Juba to elsewhere. Where do they think the capital city should be moved to? Is there any no man-land? Or it is the land of the people like the Bari people? Like Ramciel! Is Ramciel a no man’s land? or is it the land of a certain community? Of course, it is the land of the community and that is why it got the name Ramciel. The idea of Dr John Garang to move the capital to Ramciel is because Ramciel is situated in the heart of the country. If built, it would be extended to meet with Western Upper Nile in the north, Jonglei in the East, Equatoria in the South and Southwest, and Bhar El Ghazal in the West. The same with Juba, if it was allowed to be built, it would be extended to meet with Torit in the East, Yei and Mundiri in the West and Terekeka in the North.
THE LAND BELONGS TO THE COMMUNITY BUT IT MUST BE REGULATED AND MANAGED BY THE GOVERNMENT ON BEHALF OF THE COMMUNITY.
4 ISSUES OF INTERNAL BORDERS
South Sudan’s administrative boundaries stemmed from the colonial period. Since it gained independence in 2011, subsequent rounds of reshuffling of the political system, internal borders, and power relations have been a source of confusion, elite manipulation, and conflict throughout the country. The September 2018 Revitalized Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in South Sudan commits a Technical Boundary Commission to review administrative and “tribal” boundaries across the country. This comes after the October 2015 announcement of 28 and later 32 states, breaking down the existing 10 states with the 12th of May deadline for demarcation decisions fast approaching, tensions over land and boundaries have become more widespread in South Sudan. The proposed 32-state boundaries may be new, but land disputes in South Sudan are not. Boundaries have become particularly contentious because people’s land rights – and broader citizenship – are increasingly seen to depend on their ancestral belonging to ethnically-defined territories. This reflects governance strategies since the colonial period to fix people in territories and to rule people in groups rather than to recognize individual citizenship rights and freedoms. But it ignores the long history of mobility and fluid social relations among South Sudanese – the idea of exclusive ethnic territory is something relatively new and has been encouraged by recent politics and conflicts. Meanwhile, security improvements following the peace agreement are anticipated to herald the return of South Sudanese refugees and internally displaced people (IDPs), necessitating consideration of support for the returnees’ process by the international aid community. After the previous civil wars, the return of IDPs and refugees led to conflicts and tensions over houses, land, and property, but also to debates as to what constituted returnees’ areas of origin and rights of residence across South Sudan. These issues highlight the critical need for reflection on boundaries, citizenship and conflict dynamics surrounding access to and disputes over land in South Sudan. Decentralized governance that has become more prominent in South Sudan
since 2005 has also increased the political value of land and contributed to
5. boundary disputes. In South Sudan territory has become the focus of political and ethnic competition. Control over territory provides access to government revenues and a political constituency. Internal and international boundaries have become more politicized and contested, as neighboring local administrations seek to maximize their territorial and resource control. One approach to resolving boundary conflicts is to formally demarcate administrative boundaries. This process itself, however, can be a source of conflict. This is on the one hand due to the increasing political and economic stakes in controlling land, and on the other hand because of the non-linear nature of local boundaries to date. Indigenous boundaries are often indistinct, or interspersed and overlapping, with sometimes only particular clear points such as hills or prominent trees often claimed as boundary markers. Moreover, historical documentation is only of limited use for demarcating boundaries. There are archival materials on international boundaries, for instance between South Sudan and Uganda. However, it does not provide the level of detail necessary to present clear solutions to the location of international borderlines. There is even less historical evidence for most other currently disputed internal boundaries. Not only have many of these boundaries recently been created, but previous attempts to define them are vague, inaccurate or unmapped.
Demarcating boundaries is therefore not simply a technical exercise of legally determining and surveying lines, but entails wrestling with the very basis upon which those lines are to be defined—whose claims to land and territory are to be accepted, and with what forms of evidence and what definitions of community. Any process of demarcation requires very sensitive handling of these questions to avoid provoking conflict, as well as substantial support for negotiating local arrangements for cross-border relations, movement, land rights and access to shared resources.
Contestations over administrative territory and boundaries might also play into debates on the return of IDPs and refugees. Attempts to move returnees to their “areas of origin” can be deeply political and relate to tensions over administrative boundaries and ethnic competition over territory. As such, support for such movements risks entrenching inter-
6 Ethnic divisions, which in turn increases the risk of conflict. International aid actors need to consider potential political and conflict dynamics of debates about the return to “areas of origin” and should ensure that they do not facilitate harmfully divisive strategies that foster conflicts and disputes.
They must also ensure that returnees are not coerced or incentivized, but truly voluntary and based on information about security and services in proposed areas of return. Moreover, returnees might face challenges claiming their land and properties occupied during their absence. Particularly in urban and peri-urban areas, land rights were increasingly privatized, individualized and partially commodified through increasingly formalization of land ownership after 2005. Yet, land governance, whatever laws, and procedures it uses, tends to be skewed in favour of influential, powerful and wealthy members of local and national society. In this context, the most constructive responses are those that focus on strengthening the options and institutions for dispute resolution and remedying the grievances of those who are poor, vulnerable, or marginalized in the local political economy including returnees.
In the new 28 states, President Kiir put all Dinka tribes together as indicated in red on the attached map, which sparked internal border conflicts among the communities, especially in Upper Nile and Western Upper Nile among other areas. In the western Upper Nile, he put together Dinka Ruweng and Dinka Panaru on the map who have no border between them, since Dinka Ruweng migrated from Panaru to Bul land a long time ago and were given the portion of land that they are inhabiting now by Bul Paramount Chief Manytuil Wicjang and Ruweng became part of Mayom county known as (Bul-Alor).
Bul and Leek Nuer are the inhabitants living between Dinka Ruweng and Panaru. Leek Nuer borders Jikany Nuer in the East, Dinka Panaru in the far northeast and Nuba Mountain in the north. Bul Nuer shares a border with Leek in the east, Twic in the west, Ruweng in the northwest and Messiriya nomads and Nuba in the North.
7. In Upper Nile, there is an internal border dispute between Shilluk and Dinka Apadang especially on the western bank of the Nile, Malakal and other surrounding areas which is claimed by Dinka Ngok Lual Yak and Shilluk. Shilluk claims that Malakal belongs to them, a dispute which has been suspended till further notice.
A Tribal Map of 28 states putting all the Dinka together on the Map as indicated in Red which was the root cause of land grabbing in South Sudan.