There is no-man’s land in South Sudan

By Abraham Machuor Lum

Do you want to understand why land grabbing is on rise in Juba city and how will this issue of land grabbing be solved? You can get people busy building houses in every part of the city and when you ask, he or she will tell you that “Mafi Zol fi mahal de” literally meaning there is no one here.’ But do we have No-man’s Land in South Sudan? We will answer it later but first let’s shade more light why Juba is one of the most important cities in the World.

Juba is the largest and most populated city of South Sudan, the city is situated along the River Nile and also serves as the state capital of Central Equatoria and at the same time is the national capital of the Republic of South Sudan.

Its population according to April 2008census conducted by the Republic of the Sudan, prior to South Sudanese independence, was 372,413. But Juba population currently is estimated at 592,413. It’s the city in the World with rapid growth of its economy which attracted more private investors and other international businesses to flow into the country for the green pasture.

South Sudan’s capital Juba is growing at an alarming rate. A few years ago, it was a sleepy town of grass thatched huts with few concrete buildings within the vicinity of the town, but why its population is growing rapidly despite the disruption of the war?  Below are some few reasons: 

Education: There are good number of government and private schools which are established within the city, this encourages many parents across the country to bring their children for better learning because these private schools are equipped with qualified teachers and other learning services.

Security: The political conflict that erupted in 2013, made more civilians to posses guns where by killings, rapping, cattle raiding, road ambushes become the order of the day in almost all parts of the ten states. The infliction of insecurity forced some people to flee their home lands and come to Juba for their safety.

Health system: Within Juba city, there are a good number of private clinics and hospitals where health care services can be accessed easily and on time, this encouraged more citizens from different parts of the country to migrate to Juba in order to access the health services.

Employment opportunities: Juba is the headquarters of most international and National NGOs; hence there are more chances of someone with good qualifications to get employment in Juba. Not only that there are more companies, and other private  businesses that are also based in Juba and are offering Juba opportunities, this attracted more youth to come to Juba to look for Jobs. Also Juba as the national capital, more civil servants are based here while carrying out their duties.

Businesses: The whole World is in Juba both international investors from Europe, Asia and Africa are in Juba doing large and small scale businesses, alsoJuba is the center for businesses which supply other cities in the ten states; therefore small scale traders come from across the country to buy some goods and services in the city.

All the above mentioned factors lead to the rise of Juba population on the daily basis, now let’s come back to the topic, why Land grabbing is on the rise in Juba, the capital city of national government and at the same time it’s the capital city of Central Equatoria state, let’s take the note of the following factors:

Factors that encourages land gabbing:

No more surveyed land; There is enough land that can accommodate the growing number of population within Juba but the government especially the Juba town council authorities have been reluctant to survey more land to its citizens. This issue of leaving the land idle is encouraging homeless citizens to settle in any empty land that they may find in any location. The government have lost land revenue about 60% to land grabbers and it will continue if no positive step is established, because currently the land grabbing has reached the highest level where by a certain group of people can organize to have their own surveyors, Engineers to open up roads and build bridges without approval from the government or the host community. To stop the issue of land grabbing, the government should survey more land and whoever is in need of plot will apply and be given the land. There are good examples in some towns of South Sudan where the issue of land grabbing is being minimized by the state government by surveying enough land and anybody is allowed to own land.

Lack of more homes for rent; the population of Juba is growing daily, you can find 10-15 people living in one congested home, why? Becauseit’s not easy to get house for rent in Juba city and it’s also difficult to be allotted piece of land by the government or community, how do you expect such a person to sleep on the street when he or she is seeing empty space?  This had made some individuals to take the law into their own hands by building and putting up some structures in any empty land.

Dilemma of land ownership: Land in South Sudan is most confusing and complicated thing in terms of legal land ownership. The Transitional Constitution of the Republic of South Sudan 2011, said land is owned by the community and its usage is regulated by the government. With this, the community has no absolute powers to protect and own their land as it’s expected and on the other hand the government has not imposed strict laws on the usage of the land. Therefore the land grabbers used this created gap to explore massive land for settlement and other business purposes.

However, the Land ACT of 2009 divided land into three categories i.e. 

  1. Public land owned by the government
  2. Community land includes communal grazing lands for animals, agricultural land, hunting grounds and fishing grounds.
  3. Private land includes registered land owned by any person leasehold tenure for investment or any other commercial purposes.

No-man’s Land: Some people think that any land without any people settling around it is a land without any owner, but that is not the case, even if the land is idle and empty, the traditional community around that area is the owner of that particular land, the community might have used that land for cultivation, grazing land, hunting ground or fishing grounds. Therefore the best way to acquire that particular land is to ask permission from host community before any settlement taking place.

Aggressiveness and impatience by some individuals: There are steps and processes to acquire the land in any town, this include apply for the land, get registered documents and build, but due to some inpatient people, they use shortcut to get the land by all means including bribery, threat and use of force to get land in shorter time possible. Other people take advantage of using their position in the government to acquire the land from junior and poor citizens. All the above four mentioned and many other factors contributed to massive land grabbing in Juba city and other towns within South Sudan.

The issue of settling on the land illegally without proper documents or arrangement either from the government or community have caused uncountable conflicts among the communities and it will continue causing misunderstanding if the government does not take concrete measures to address the issue of land ownership.

The government should survey and allot more lands to be available to meet the demand of the growing population in the city including the application of clear laws on land usage and ownership. In real sense, there is no-man’s Land in South Sudan but lack of imposing law makes No-man land in the country. Every land is Community land which includes communal grazing lands for animals, agricultural land, hunting grounds and fishing grounds as well as worshiping places and settlement lands.

The writer is south Sudanese concerned citizens and can be reached at Abraham.machuor1998@gmail.com

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