Opinion

Land ownership and tenure [Part 2]

By: Poiya Isaac Lagu, (LLM).

In the year 106 A.D, “William 1, the Emperor was able to establish his reign by force over England. He declared the land by his conquest and all of England was his property. Nobody could own land without the blessings of the King. One could lease land directly or indirectly from the Crown. Land was given to those who could perform services to the King or to the Lord. It was not held absolutely. There were always sanctions. That people could honour their services in the battles for the Crown and providing personal services for the King.

In the Republic of South Sudan, under article 171 (2) of the 2011, transitional Constitution as amended; land tenure shall consist of “Public land, Community and Private land” read together with Section 7 (2) of the Land Act, 2009 that provides for “Customary, Freehold and Leasehold” as forms of land tenures. And under Chapter three, land is classified as Public, Community and Private. Also, in Section 82 (4) of the same Act, “Any person who unlawfully occupies a piece of land for 30 years without interruption in an urban area, from May 16th, 1983 shall be granted legal title or rights there-on”. And rights of Non-Citizens to land is provided under Section (14) of the Land Act, 2009 where individuals or foreign entities may acquire leasehold or other interest in land for a specified period and not Freehold, for residential or investment purposes or for any other reasons in conformity with the interest of the people and in accordance with the provisions of the Investment law or any other law.

In Nimule at the border with Uganda and in Juba, the capital city of the Republic of South Sudan and the State capital of Jubek, the land dispute in Rejaf is not an exception; there is a predominant nature and causes of land disputes and the likely effects of the given provisions of the Land Act, 2009. In my opinion and practice of laws, land disputes constitute a big proportion of civil litigation in South Sudan’s Courts. Don’t underestimate it; many problems are never resolved effectively because they are not taken seriously enough. 

In the past years, human- rural relations to land were based on customs and usages among members of the ethnic Communities in the Republic of South Sudan. All members have equal access and communal rights. But today, the relation of people to land in South Sudan has become relatively individualistic, example; in the Equatoria region, urbanization of Juba city and major towns that resulted into high demand of land or plots for investment, return of refugees back home in the year 2006-10; that led to search for land or plots for settlement, the crisis of 2013 and 2016; where many land owners were forced to flee and settle in the neighboring Countries as refugees. Example; in Nimule, Pageri, Mugali, Loa and Moli, herds of cattle from the Pastoral Communities are grazing in the areas causing soil erosion and environmental degradation. The herders have also engaged into cutting of good species of trees in the areas for charcoal and others are currently occupying the Houses found in the areas. You can easily see from the Nimule high way even if you are in the Bus or walking on foot and all the Homes and Houses of the Madi along the high way are destroyed. (Madi means “Human being” The Madi speak Ma’di tongue which is a Sudanic language related to the Moru, Lolubo and Kaliku. Example; in Madi they say ‘opi ni pa`dere,’ in English meaning “Is Opi a Priest? Words of Prof. Mairi J. Blacking & Nigel Fabb, “An Introduction to the Grammar of Ma’di”, (2015), Noble Printers & Graphic Design, Juba, page 83. The Madi occupied a large area of land extending from the Republic of South Sudan to Lake Albert in Uganda. These Homes and Houses form part of that land. And I am left wondering why the Cattle Herders came all the way to Moli, Pageri, Mugali along river Aswa in the Eastern part of Nimule town leaving their own ancestral land. These Cattle Herders call themselves Moinjaang, meaning “People of the people”. Words of Anders Breidlid & Others, “A Concise History of South Sudan”, (2014), Fountain Publishers, at page. 57 and 78. Who gave powers to those Cattle Herders to do such an illegal act – thus trespass into someone’s land? And where did they get the Guns? The purpose of the Gun is to defend the nation from a foreign aggression, not for a private individual use as such. They have occupied that part of the land. The persons who are supporting them should immediately desist. I would compare the conducts and life of these Cattle Herders to that of the Karamojang of Uganda in the early 1990s. They have similar characteristics. But today, the Karamojang of Uganda are more developed than these Cattle Herders. I give credit to Hon. Janet Kataaha Museveni, the First Lady of the Republic of Uganda for Her great achievements in the Karamoja region during her tenure as the State Minister for Karamoja Affairs. She was appointed on the 16th February, 2009 by Her Husband, President Yoweri Museveni. And served in the Cabinet from 27th May 2011 until 6th June 2016, She was elevated to Minister for Karamoja Affairs, complete with a State Minister for Karamoja Affairs. But, who can be the savior to these Cattle Herders or Pastoral Communities in order to change their conduct and develop their life in South Sudan. They prefer migrating into the Equatoria region and threatening the land (spirits and gods) of the farming Communities leaving their own ancestral land, moving from one place to another. It should be noted that; Equatoria region has a favourable climate with enough grass for grazing livestock and fertile soil for farming compared to that in Upper Nile and Bahr-el-Ghazal region where clay soil is found in most areas, the weather is dry and harsh from December to April, heavy rainfall in the months of April to November that always result into heavy flooding, Communal fighting and cattle rustling are common in some Communities of Upper Nile and the Bahr el Ghazal region.

Therefore; Land in its essence of ownership, tenure and the forms in which the rights, restrictions and responsibilities people have there-with; has been for many years characterized with the multiple tenure systems such as Customary, Leasehold and Freehold. It’s classified as; Public, Community and Private. Many South Sudanese whose basic economic activity is Pastoralism or raring of Cattle left their ancestral land and settled in the Equatoria region for safety or search for a better livelihood or grazing land. Hence; causing disputes with most of the peaceful farming Communities in the Equatoria. Some; decided to use forceful and unlawful means to acquire land and plots that they settled in and usually; proceedings for eviction are instituted against them by the authorities. Although some proved to be too resistant, I am not saying the land of Equatoria is great; No! The land of South Sudan in every corner is well blessed from the creation days and no one can part away there-with. Today, everybody is fixing the blame—Nobody is fixing the solution regarding land ownership and allotment in South Sudan. Don’t use force and Guns in allotment of land or plots and in settlement of land disputes, it can consume you, land is like a hot plate containing the fire of coal, it’s valuable and a real property. Only, follow the right procedures of the laws to acquire it and never procrastinate in land issues. And I hope the 2018 Revitalized Peace Agreement shall bring to an end all the crisis in the Republic of South Sudan including settlement of land disputes, ownership and tenure. I would therefore recommend that; we should have a State Minister specifically for the Affairs of the Pastoral Communities or Cattle Herders in the Republic of South Sudan. He or she should be appointed by the President to handle, manage, advice and direct on issues regarding the Pastoral Communities or Cattle Herders for a better development in the Country.

The Writer is a practicing Advocate & Commissioner for Oaths, Tel; (+211) 924086970, Email; poiyaisaaclagu@gmail.com, Juba!                                                           

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