National, News

Taskforce charts path on land governance

By William Madouk


National Ministry of Lands, Housing, and Urban Development has formed Land Reform Unit to uproot deep-lying corrupt and land-grabbing practices in the country.

Robert Ladu Lwoki, the chairperson of South Sudan Land Commission, said during validation of Land Reform Unit, that, to solve land-grabbing disputes, there must be a concern unit.

“We want to form a land reform unit under the Ministry of Land, Housing, and Urban Development to pave the way for land policy and other land reform policies because there are so many land issues,” said Lwoki, who is also chair of the unit taskforce.

“We have talked of specialized courts on land, trained forces to handle land issues, whether administratively or in surveying, plus trained cadres; most of the time, you find that ordinary citizens distribute land without the government’s presence,” he added.

He clarified that the act of demarcating lands without the government’s permission affects non-oil revenue collection and exacerbates land-grabbing practices.

“So, the government must take the lead because this land is valuable. That’s why later on, you hear our land is grabbed and who grabbed it—you find those in the market and chiefs are involved,” he noted.

For instance, Lwoki said the root of the land matter is that someone not from Juba but from Lainya has his area chiefs in Juba County who are surveying and allocating lands to their community on Bari’s land.

“This land reform unit will be strictly observing these land issues, and all is well,” he continued. “The land issue in Juba is because the value of land is very expensive.”

Mr. Lwoki lamented that the lack of a land authority and a land council in accordance with the Land Act of 2009 and land policies in states, counties, and payams is one of the contributing factors to the nagging land issue across South Sudan.

“Due to a lack of this, when there is no law, people play with the law, but when we talk of the law, those institutions are supposed to be established, including specialized courts for land disputes, like now in 90 percent of land cases.”

Besides, the undersecretary in the ministry of land, Eng. Louis Kwot Akolieth, stated that the 2-day workshop was to review the Terms of Reference (TOR) for the recently formed Land Reform Unit.

“This unit that has been formed by the ministry is a requirement of land policy and also a requirement of the peace agreement; we are going ahead, although the policy has not yet been passed by the parliament,” he said.

Once the land policy is passed by the national parliament, the taskforces will carry out their mandate without hindrances, he added.

“As you have seen, we have a taskforce that has been formed by the ministry and is composed of stakeholders from about 15 government institutions, Akolieth noted.

The institutions are the office of the president, the Ministry of Agriculture, the Ministry of Wildlife, the Ministry of Gender, Child, and Social Welfare, the Local Government, and the Land Commission, among others.

Meanwhile, Kimio Ajing, the Deputy Chairman of the South Sudan Bar Association, said land grabbing was due to limited demarcation compared to the influx in the capital city after the peace deal.

“The main reason behind land grabbing is that people are desperate to access and get land, and with the limited distribution of land, people trespass and go take the land of others through illegal means,” said Ajing.

He emphasized that ‘the matter started with the civil war in 1983, when most dwellers sought refuge in neighboring countries, but with the signing of the peace deal, newcomers occupied their land.

“With the signing of the peace agreement, there was a big population coming to Juba, and the available land by then was very limited, and that’s why encroachment happened.

“Maybe [the owners] building was demolished or destroyed [during war], so when newcomers came, they thought that it was an empty place, not knowing that the area was demarcated a long time ago, in the 1990s or 80s.”

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