The Scramble and Partition of Equatoria: Enslavement and Occupation of Equatoria through land grabbing
By Modi Joseph Robert Kenyi,
Feb 11, 2015(Nyamilepedia) — Those who eyes let them see, those who have ears let them ear and those who did not know let them know. Gen. Salve Kiir Mayardit, was totally taken by surprise to become President of the then Government of Southern Sudan (GOSS) before the split of the twins Sudan. It is an open secret in South Sudan that many people say the abbreviation GOSS differently. In other words the abbreviation means different thing to different people. Some refers to it as the Government of Self service; other say Government of Stupid People. Yet, others say Ghost organization South Sudan.
What the above stated sentiments about GOSS seem to point out is that South Sudan has government but no government officials or servant-leaders that meaningfully fight and struggled for freedom, justice and equality for all South Sudanese peoples or house of nationalities. Grand corruption, looting and robbery as well as gross violation of human rights have been condoned by Kiirs regime contrary to the laws enacted by his rubber stamp legislative assembly and his assent. No perpetrators of crimes and human rights violations have been successfully prosecuted, convicted and sentenced whether by civil or military courts.
I argue that it has been over ten years of Equatorians slavery through land grabbing by the Kiir’s regime. I know some Equatorians will pay deft ears and blind eyes to the revelation of this bitter truth of land grabbing in Equatoria. Although it bitter, it is good to say the truth if South Sudanese people are to be set free from the mess created by Kiir’s regime before and after South Sudan independence. Yet it is to say the truth if South Sudan is united to prevent it split up into three different countries of Bahr el Ghazal, Equatoria and Upper Nile; or whatever names these would be called. If happen, Kiir and his clique will shoulder the blame like his counterpart President Omer Hassan el Bashir, who forced South Sudanese people to split from Sudan.
The Transitional Constitution of South Sudan (TCSS), 2011 which Kiir and his bull boys and cow girls in the dictatorial government purport to derive their legitimacy is never respected by them. For instance, the Constitution provides for supremacy I.e. no person (natural and juristic) including Kiir himself shall not be above TCSS, which the moon and sun always above every person in the world. That is why Article 3 stresses that this Constitution derives its authority from the will of the people and is the supreme law of the land. It shall have a binding force on all persons, institutions, organs and agencies of government throughout the Country; and the authority of government at all levels shall derive from this Constitution and the law. But Kiir and his regime do not respect this provision. This means they never respect the will of South Sudanese people enshrined in the Constitution, the supreme law of South Sudan.
Article 9 of TCSS goes on to remind South Sudanese people that the Bill of Rights is a covenant among yourselves and between you and your government at every level and a commitment to respect and promote human rights and fundamental freedoms. It is the cornerstone of social justice, equality and democracy; the rights and freedoms of individuals. The Bill should be respected, upheld and promoted by all organs and agencies of Government and by all persons; all rights and freedoms enshrined in international human rights treaties, covenants and instruments ratified or acceded to by the Republic of South Sudan shall be an integral part of this Bill; and this Bill of Rights shall be upheld by the Supreme Court and other competent courts and monitored by the Human Rights Commission.
Article 10 of TCSS requires that no derogation from the rights and freedoms enshrined in this Bill shall be made. The Bill of Rights shall be upheld, protected and applied by the Supreme Court and other competent courts; the Human Rights Commission shall monitor its application in accordance with this Constitution and the law.
All South Sudanese ethnic groups or tribes were give land by God. None of these groups is landless. For this reason Article 170 of TCSS declares that all land in South Sudan is owned by the people of South Sudan and its usage shall be regulated by the government in accordance with the provisions of this Constitution and the law. This means that each community of South Sudan has land and this is a bitter truth. That is why Government at all levels is given a discretionary power (may) to expropriate land under the condition that it is in the public interest and that must be prescribed by law. This law has never been enacted but it is evidenced that government or individuals in government have illegally expropriated land in Northern Bari Payam, Rejaf Payam and Mongalla Payam among others. The victims, the Bari people in and around Juba are helpless and are being killed often for resisting land grabbing. The same situation is Nimule, Yei, Mundri. Its enactment shall protect the rights of all citizens to land taking into consideration their effective participation to allow them provide their views, beliefs, aspirations and values as given by the Constitution and the law. The land tenure system in South Sudan consists of public land, community land and private land.
Public land: This includes, but not limited to: all land owned, held or otherwise acquired by any level of government as defined by law; and all land which is not otherwise classified as community or private. However, rights over all subterranean and other natural resources throughout South Sudan, including petroleum and gas resources and solid minerals, shall belong to the National Government and shall be regulated by law.
Community land: This includes all lands traditionally and historically held or used by local communities or their members. They shall be defined, held, managed and protected by law. Not respected.
Private land: This includes registered land held by any person under leasehold tenure in accordance with the law; investment land acquired under lease from the Government or community for purposes of social and economic development in accordance with the law; and any other land designated as private land by law.
In addition, the article stressed that rights in land and resources owned, held or otherwise acquired by the Government shall be exercised through the appropriate or designated level of government which shall recognize customary land rights under customary land law. Not respected by Kiir’s regime.
Further, the Article obliges that all levels of government shall institute a process to progressively develop and amend the relevant laws to incorporate customary rights and practices and local heritage. Not respected by Kiir’s.
Taking into account indigenous rights, the Article requires that communities and persons enjoying rights in land shall be consulted in decisions that may affect their rights in lands and resources; and in case of expropriation prescribed by law, communities and persons enjoying rights in land shall be entitled to prompt and equitable compensation on just terms arising from acquisition or development of land in their areas in the public interest. Not respected Kiir’s regime.
The drafters of TCSS reminded by the bitter history of the people of Africans and other enacted that South Sudanese citizens and people shall be free from of slavery, servitude, forced labour, colonization, and occupation. Emphasis added by the writer. Article declares that 13 slavery and slave trade in all forms are prohibited. No person shall be held in slavery or servitude; and no person shall be required to perform forced or compulsory labour except as a penalty upon conviction by a competent court of law. In this 21st century, slavery still exists in Equatoria that is why I argue that enslavement of Equatoria is through land grabbing and occupation. So, Equatorians have fought in all the liberation wars since 1947 for South Sudan all in vain or for nothing.
Reflecting on the aspiration of the struggle of the South Sudanese freedom fighters from 1820 to date, the drafters intended in Article 14 of TCSS that all persons in South Sudan should be equal before the law, and entitled to the equal protection of the law without discrimination as to race, ethnic origin, colour, sex, language, religious creed, political opinion, birth, locality or social status. Unfair discrimination exists in the country in the form of tribalism, locality, political opinion and social status.
Reminded that the people of Africa in general and South Sudanese in particular suffered torture, inhuman or degrading treatment by slave traders, colonizers and occupiers, the drafters of TCSS in Article 18 of the Constitution intended and valued that no person in South Sudan shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. The victims of this atrocity often are denied the right to fair trial due to partial and incompetent judiciary dependent on the executive. Yet, the judiciary is occupied by judges and justices who fear and favour the members of the ruling party or tribe. That is the executive and all organs and institutions under it act or omit to act at will with impunity. This situation fits the English proverb which says “amidst war, the law is silence.’ In this constitutional and bill of rights era, I argue that amidst a dictatorial regime, the parliament, courts and other organs of the state are silence. The ordinary citizens and nationalists are the victims while the perpetrators are the victors over justice and accountability because Kiir is the president, speaker of national assembly and chief justice of the Republic of South Sudan. Was President Idi of Uganda was better because he fought colonialists and exploiters?
Article 28 of TCSS declares that every person shall have the right to acquire or own property as regulated by law; and no private property may be expropriated save by law in the public interest and in consideration for prompt and fair compensation. No private property shall be confiscated save by an order of a court of law. Not respected by Kiir regime as you will know later.
Rights of Ethnic and Cultural Communities are attached to land. Article 33 of TCSS states that ethnic and cultural communities shall have the right to freely enjoy and develop their particular cultures. Members of such communities shall have the right to practice their beliefs, use their languages, observe their religions and raise their children within the context of their respective cultures and customs in accordance with this Constitution and the law. When Paul Jaja died in 2013, land grabbers resisted the burial of his remains in Komiru village, the late ancestral land.
TCSS stipulated in Article 27 that every citizen shall have the right to freedom of movement and the liberty to choose his or her residence. Equatorians in general and Bari in particular respect this provision. However, land grabbers understood this provision as a license to land grab, occupy and enslave Equatorians because they welcome all peoples to stay, work and do business in the region.
Historically, after the Addis Ababa Agreement of 1972 between the then Government of Sudan under President Jafer Mohamed Nemeri and South Sudan Liberation Movement led by Gen. Joseph Lagu Yanga, enslavement of Equatorians through land grabbing and occupation did not take place immediately but after Maulana Abel Alier took power through complicated circumstances from Yanga as President of South Sudan High Executive Council when the occupation of Equatoria in general and Bari land in particular took root. Previously, Bari and Dinka Bor lived as peaceful neighbours until when Dinak Bor raided Bari Cattle and killed many people of Bari and Equatoria origin in 1967 & 8. After Alier took over from Yanga, Bari cattle stolen by Dinka Bor were brought back to and around Juba. The cattle defecated and urinated not only on the farms of Bari but on the homes and Bari people. This ended in 1983 by the formulation of decentralization (Bari called kokora) policy introduced by Nemeri’s Government which aimed at taking development to all parts of South Sudan. That was understood and rejected by most people from Bahr el Ghazal and Upper Nile regions but contradictorily; the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLM) led by Dr John Garang accepted it in 2005 through the Comprehensive Peace Agreement. I argue that the rejection of decentralization policy that amounted to rejecting power development which the people desperately need in their ancestral places. The evidence of decentralization policy speaks for itself in Equatoria which is at least more developed than those two regions, particularly Juba and the surrounding Bari land which scramble and partition under gun point is taking. Those who resist are often killed with impunity because Kiir’s regime supports the scramble and partition of Equatoria region.
From 2005 to date, the enslavement of Equatorians through land grabbing increased with increased in the armament of people from Bahr el Ghazal and Upper Nile who many in the SPLA and organized forces. This policy for enslavement of Equatorians seemed to have been masterminded by politicians, leaders and army and other generals from other regions of South Sudan. Our own politicians and leaders are either sleeping with all their eyes closed or are pretending not to know the land grabbing and atrocities being committed against Equatorians under Kiir’s regime through his Mr. Right, Clement Wani Konga, the current Governor of central Equatoria State. Let me now take you through the evil of land grabbing with concrete evidence that you already know.
Central Equatoria State (CES):
- Yei River County:
It is an open secret that soon after the SPLA captured Yei in 1997; Salva Kiir Mayardit grabbed land at about one mile square of ancestral land which belonged to some Kakwa people. Kakwa cousin with Bari is the main an ethnic group or indigenous people of Yei. To date, with his colleagues, the president occupies that land with impunity against the community rights to land enshrined in the TCSS. Within Yei town, many plots of land and property of individuals have also being grabbed under gun point. To date, the owners are unable to reclaim them. Yet, there are cases of land grabbing by pastoralists in Tore payam.
- Juba County:
President Mayardit’s guards grabbed land and property near presidential palace in Juba, the capital of South. To date, the rightful and legal owners despite the existence of state attorneys, prosecutors and judges are not able to reclaim their property. Due to lack of correct assessment, it can be estimated that at least over 500 plots or property have been grabbed by president guards around the palace. If this is true, then the previous statement that amidst a dictatorial regime, the parliament, courts and other organs of the state are silence and the ordinary citizens are the victims and perpetrators victors over justice and accountability.
Opposite presidential palace in Juba, it is also an open secret over 2000 plots of land or properties largely belonging to Equatorians were grabbed in Juba NaBari residential area (Land grabbers and other ignorant or fearful people called the area Toping) west of Airport Road. Central Equatoria States Authorities tried to evict the squatters or land grabbers and handover the properties to the respective legal owners but all in vain, may be because Clement Wani Konga, CES Governor is unable or fear removal from his position.
As if that is not enough, President Salva Kiir Mayardit with the help of some greedy Bari or collaborators grabbed a large piece of land from Bari of Luri “A” Court at the foot of Luri Mountain about 15 miles west of Juba in Northen Bari Payam in Juba County. As it is the culture of land grabbers, the executive of Luri Boma and his people were not consulted. This land has been developed into a cattle camp from Warrap. Weekend home constructed and rest of the land is used for storage of military hardware, training and sheltering his militia mainly from his clan and Bahr el Ghazal Region. On condition of anonymity, a concerned South Sudanese lawyer from Greater Upper Nile said “a very good friend and a colleague at the same time decided to go home and do farming; he seriously disappointed by the behavior of National security and running away with the ballots boxes of the Bar Association election. My advice to him is that, he must stay put. The land he wants to go and cultivate on is already grabbed by Dictator Salva Kiir and his generals. Ask if Salva Kiir has a title deed for the land he grabbed in Luri? Again if your land is there and you cultivate successfully, they will send in their cows to destroy your farm. Salva Kiir cows in Luri are destroying farms of poor locals or citizens of South Sudan. How can you question a cow who is a VIP and guarded by presidential guards? That’s the reality of our situation”.
Other places in which land grabbing took place and legal owners have not reclaimed their plots of land included Komiru, Mere Lotor (renamed by land grabbers as Jebel Dinka), Lukwili, Gwudugwe, Logo, Kolwe, Nesitu. This is Bari land; I am wondering why there is no Jebel Bari? Does it mean that the mountains and hills in Equatoria should be renamed by the remaining 63 or more tribes of South Sudan? He or she who has answer to these questions can give. All these scramble and partition are in Juba County. Why not in Terekeka, the home county of Clement Wani Konga, the CES Governor? Why has this not taken place in Warrap, the home state of Salva Kiir Mayardit, President of Republic of South Sudan? Can you cross check with your counterpart, Yoweri Kaguta Museveni, President of the Republic of Uganda if he has grabbed in Kampala, the capital city of the Republic of Uganda? I hope you have ever visited, Museveni at his home at Rwakitura. Was that lesson learnt and forgotten?
Currently, at Rodolo and Mankaro “A” Courts (Bomas) in Mongalla Payam Juba County, land grabbing is taking place under heavy military hardware of SPLA from the Tank, Engineering and other Units with SPLA personnel mostly from Non-Equatorians. It is believed that high profile figures are involved in this broad day land grabbing evil or scandal. It is a rumor near to truth that the land grabbers had armed conflict among themselves over land scramble and partition and at least some died of gun shots wound leaving others wounded.
Land grabbing for grazing and watering of cattle and other livestock are common Lo’bonok, Bungu and Ganji payams, all in Bari land in Juba County. Leaders, politicians and people are powerless and voiceless.
Other counties of Central Equatoria State such as Kajokeji, Lainya, Terekeka and Morobo seem not to experience the high rate of land grabbing like Juba and Yei River Counties. The question is why these differences?
No shame. Not God-fearing at all. Humanity and respect for the Bari people, culture and land is cowardice. Salva Kiir Mayardit, James Wani Iggga, Clement Wani Konga and Stephen Wani Michael are in deadly silence like the Bari in general and Mongalla in particular.
The Gen. Salva Kiir Mayardit, who was the second man to late Dr. John Garang de Mabior and now the President of South Sudan since 2005, is supposed to give the people of South Sudan servant leadership like that of Jesus Christ because Mayardit is traditional Roman Catholic Christian believer.
Eastern Equatoria State (EES):
EES is not an exception to land grabbing. Nimule Payam in Magwi County is the first evidence of land grabbing in the state. This evil started since 1989 when SPLM/A captured Nimule from the enemy. Ma’di, the natives or indigenous people, who fled to exile for refuge due to the civil war, since then have not been able to reclaim their ancestral land to date. But cases of land grabbing are unheard of in Torit and Kapoeta counties. The question is why not?
Western Equatoria State (WES): In WES, cases of land grabbing for settlement are rare except for grazing and watering livestock. This is common Mundri West and the surrounding areas. But according to the recent media reports, the pastoralists have begun leaving the area after they given an ultimatum of three weeks to vacate the area or continue to stay in the area on their own risks.
In conclusion, one wonders if those who scramble and partition Equatoria know or are at least aware of the TCSS and other laws of South Sudan in general and the provisions of TCSS stated above in particular. If they are aware, then is it correct to conclusion that the statement Enslavement and Occupation of Equatoria through land grabbing is true”?
As the President of Republic, last person to enact law through assent and to enforce it through the legal machinery and institution, why he is giving the bad example for land grabbers, the only resource of the poor people in Equatoria. I he could learnt from the example of late Dr. John Garang de Mabior. After the fall of Yei to the SPLA gallant forces in 1997, the late called some Kakwa chiefs and requested for assistance in a form of a piece of land so that he can continue with struggle for Juba near his forces. The chiefs accepted his request and he and Oyai Deng Ajak were given pieces of land at Hai Batari on temporary basis. He promised to return the land to the owners. On signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) in 2005, the late Dr. John Garang de Mabior respected his promise. He went back to Yei after he signed the CPA, called the chiefs and handed back the land to them. The chiefs thanked him. However, Salva Kiir Mayardit was different that is why he remained in the same land grabbed to date.
In spite of all the occupation of Equatoria for enslavement of Equatorians, why most Equatorians are still loyal to the tyrant regime under Gen. Salva Kiir Mayardit? Each of you knows the reasons. As one of you, I call you to sleep with one eye open like Murle in Jonglei State as John Oryem proverbs says “He/She who is surrounded by enemies should learn how to sleep with one eye opened.” If Equatorians in general and individual tribes such as the Bari are to survive and protect their interests and land for generations to come in South Sudan; they must avoid sleeping with their eyes closed. In fact, it would best to learn from the Jewish or the State of Israel experience. Equatorians wake and get up and stand up for the struggle to liberate yourselves from the Kiir and other dictatorial regimes once and for all.
Equatorians, you very well know that the current Ministry of justice is ministry without justice; judiciary of South Sudan is judiciary without justice; and SPLA Directorate for military justice is without justice. In general, South Sudan under Salva Kiir Mayardid and James Wani Igga has no justice and accountability. Similarly, Central Equatoria State (CES) under clement Wani Konga has no justice and accountability and above all no security and safety. This is evidenced in the continual brutal killing of our people in Juba day and night. The Bari, Ma’di and other people are being killed often for resisting land grabbing. Bari, Ma’di and other communities, it is time you wake to defend yourselves, families, land and property for future generations.
Bari, Dinka Bor took your cattle in late 1960s, they brought the same to your area not to graze over your farms but defecate and urine on you. After 2005, they and others came to your land under gun point; and continued with policy of scramble and partition your land, the only resource you after your cattle stolen. Without land, you will become slaves and your descendents shall remain slaves because the Governments under Salva Kiir Mayardit, James Wani Igga, Clement Wani Konga and Stephen Wani Michael have done nothing and will do nothing to avert the scramble and partition for the Enslavement of Equatorians through land grabbing, occupation and settlement. Radical and fundamental reforms are possible through a Federal democratic republic of South Sudan where Equatorians as first class citizens like other South Sudanese with full rights and duties in a government of the people, by the people and for people.
James Wani Igga and the three governors of Equatoria must tell Equatorians the truth. Time for lies or false is over. They consult Equatoria elders, for example Uncle Joseph Lagu before acting against the interests of death, alive and yet to be born Equatorians. The last conference was not well done like the previous ones. I associate myself with analysis and comments of Dr. Lam Akol Ajawin on the last extra-Ordinary or Emergency meeting of Equatoria Conference. I hope they have read and learnt some lessons.
The author is human rights lawyer, fighting for fundamental reforms in South Sudan through human rights revolution. He can be reached through: email@example.com
— Original published/written on 20 November 2013