Land grabbing blamed for ethnic tensions in South Sudan

Tuesday November 29 2016
equatoria kids

Displaced South Sudanese waiting to be registered at a Red Cross compound in Wau, in northwestern South Sudan. PHOTO | AFP

Rampant land grabbing is fuelling ethnic strife in South Sudan’s Equatoria State, an official has said.

The National Land Commission Coordinator, Mr Butrus Apollo, said in Juba Tuesday that the situation could turn tragic if not addressed.

Mr Apollo said some disgruntled politicians were using the land grabbing issue to foment turmoil as they pursued their personal interests.

He noted the the matter was difficult to address without a policy or clear laws on the roles of the various land institutions in place.

“Unfortunately, we don’t have a land policy in place….that is the major reason. In 2009, a Land Act was passed into law, but it is not enough," he said.

The South Sudan transitional constitution provides that land belongs to the people, but the government remains the custodian.


Mr Apollo disclosed that the national land agency had received at least six cases this year alone, while many others ended up in the courts.

After the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (2005), Juba experienced unprecedented population growth, accompanied by expansion and proliferation of informal settlements, characterised by numerous land disputes.

The disputes at times erupted into violence, according to the Norwegian Peoples Aid 2011 report on land grabbing.

An independent analyst, Mr David De Dau, said the land grabbing claims in Equatoria had taken a more political than socio-economic dimension.

He accused the leaders from the region of being holders of two passports, a situation that put to question their loyalty to the war-torn South Sudan.

“The fact that majority of Equatorians are double passport holders, has divided their loyalty, and a divided loyalty may mean less of patriotism and nationalism in most cases,” he said.

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