Active Citizen moves to educate communities on land rights
By Wek Atak Kacjang
Active Citizen South Sudan, an indigenous organization in partnership with Norwegian People’s Aid (NPA) is educating the communities across parts of Juba to enlighten them on land rights.
The Land Act, 2009 that regulates land occupancy and protects land rights in South Sudan pays particular attention to protection of customary land rights.
Speaking to media yesterday, the Project Coordinator for the organization, Angelina Stephen Ban said that public, community, or private land have a right to register it.
“But people have been scrambling over land. Other reports indicated that some land owners sell a single piece to even more than five people; so, this was the major concern we felt was threatening lives in the community,” she said.
She affirmed that the sensitization campaign was informed by huge cases of land grabbing that were pinning down the society. So,“we managed to conduct door-to-door campaigns on land rights because of all these issues where people could fight over pieces of land,” Ms. Ban added.
“Everyone must know that if you buy a land from anyone, the owner must produce legal document so that you can be on safer side if things overturn,” she said.
She revealed that the exercise would help supplement the government’s work as it educates the citizens to closely work with relevant authorities; being police or local chiefs when acquiring lands.
“At least about 3,500 people comprising of 1,950 females, 1,550 males and 500 households were reached during the exercise. The campaign series took place in the areas of Greater Luri Payam,Mangateen, Mia-Saba, Munuki and Hai Referendum respectively. The organization believed it was high time to support peaceful coexistence among the civil population. This issue of selling a piece of land to over five people can makethe locals to hate and fight themselves, which canlead to violence and killing, so that’s why we decided to take this initiative to create awareness so that people are aware of the dealers who just sale land without legal justification,” she added.
Meanwhile, a 28-year-old Teresa Nyayiena, one of the beneficiaries said the campaign was instrumental towards ending grievances that come with illegal land acquisition.
“We are going to begin questioning land owners and even to go down to verify legal documents if they are relevant or not,” she said.
Previously, most of the land buyersin Juba had been getting fake legal certificates forging ownership; which have never been the case, according to the State local government.
However, Mr. Joseph Maror, a community resident who was reached during the campaign affirmed that they were not aware about land Act 2009.
“We didn’t know about the Land Act. Otherwise, we have now realized that some of us have been getting involved in illegalland issues;but now, we are aware of the steps to be followed when acquiring land,” he said.
Michael Biphal, the Executive Director of the organization advised the land acquisitions to be always careful when attaining lands.
“The buyers need to always make sure that they have lawyers and witnesses whenever they want to buy a land. The lawyer, witnesses and right land documents would serve as land rights evidences in case of any complication,”
He cautioned land owners to avoid illegal sale of land; urging everyone to be legal minded and be aware of the land act; right legal documents acquisition when buying land.
In South Sudan, issues of land grabbing have continued to go rampant for the last few years; putting the lives of the citizens at risk when acquiring land.This moved President Salva Kiir Mayardit on August 11, 2021 to issue an order forming a committee to address rampant informal settlements and land grabbing issues in Juba city and its vicinities.