Central Equatoria parliament rejects ‘land belongs to the people’ policy

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Sudans Post | 15 February 2024 

Central Equatoria parliament rejects ‘land belongs to the people’ policy
 
JUBA – A serious showdown is looming in South Sudan over the draft land ownership policy as the Central Equatoria State Assembly rejected the “land belongs to the people” policy, claiming it is a secret deal to legalize land grabbing.
 
CES parliament Speaker Peter Wani Kulang said they expect the national government to embark on finding a solution for the runaway economy and elusive peace among communities to consolidate peace, harmony and broken social fabric, and not land policy.
 
“We never expected a policy dealing with a resource so sensitive like land that touches the emotions of the people could be brought for discussion at this trying moment where the country’s unity and that of its people is at stake,” Kulang told reporters on Thursday following a sitting at the state parliament.
 
“We strongly believe that it will be subjected to abuse at this material time, where there is less regard to the rule of law,” he added.
 
The lawmaker also claimed that the draft land policy which was passed in October last year and stipulates that land belongs to the people not communities is an intended conspiracy by few individuals who covet specific communities’ lands.
 
Kulang said that article 170 of the transitional constitution of South Sudan which says that “All land of South Sudan belongs to the people of South Sudan” was meant to legalize the rampant land grabbing in the world’s youngest country.
 
“CES assembly categorically reject that part of the draft national land policy which proclaim that ‘All land of South Sudan belongs to the people of South Sudan’ although this is accordance with provision of Article 170 of the constitution,” he said.
 
“We strongly believe that the inclusion of this particular provision in the Supreme law of the country was done in bad faith and meant to institutionalize and legalize land grabbing,” he added.
 
He explained that the draft land policy was hurriedly passed without incorporating citizens’ view, declaring it null and void until permanent constitution is enacted or a referendum is conducted to allow for the public to take part in it.
 
“The draft national land policy could be in good faith, but some of its parts are meant to justify and institutionalize the crime of land grabbing and migration of some communities,” he said.
 
The top state member of parliament said that unscrupulous government officials are now being involved in land grabbing with impunity, while the national government is silent over the matter leaving state in a state of awe.
 
The Council of Ministers in October 2023 revised and passed the National Land Policy with a clause specifying that land is owned by the people and not the communities in South Sudan, as outlined in the transitional constitution.
 
The cabinet meeting chaired by President Salva Kiir Mayardit at the time discussed the document in a bid to address conflicting views about land ownership and governance in the country. The document was developed to establish a sustainable framework for allocating and protecting collective and individual land rights for all the people of South Sudan.
 
Information minister Michael Makuei stated at the time that the cabinet is seeking to address arguments over the ownership of land despite it being clearly stipulated in the national constitutions.
 
“The constitution of South Sudan says land is owned by the people of South Sudan, not the communities of South Sudan. And the government shall regulate its usage. This is very clear,” Makuei who is the government spokesman told journalists following a cabinet meeting on October 28, 2023.
 
Yesterday, the Chairperson for the South Sudan Land Alliance (SSLA), Dorothy Drabuga, while issuing a clarification on the land ownership policy said the fact that the phrase says that “land belongs to the people’ does not mean that the community land is taken.”
 
“If lands are left in the hands of the community alone, they can definitely misuse them. Maybe investors will come and deceive them, but it is better to let them be regulated by the government so that they will benefit everybody,” Dorothy added.
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