SSLS And The State Land Alliances Releases A Research Report On Land Dispute

The South Sudan Law Society [SSLS] and State Land Alliances (SLAs) with support from the Norwegian People’s Aid (NPA) early this month held a joint workshop to validate the findings of the research on land disputes in Urban and Peri-Urban South Sudan.

SSLS And The State Land Alliances Releases A Research Report On Land Dispute
South Sudan Land Alliance, pose for a group photo [Photo credit, NPA]

JUBA, 10 March 2017[Gurtong]-The research was conducted between November and December 2016 and was supported by the NPA’s Land and Resources Rights Programme. The workshop, which took place from February 28th to March 1st, 2017, validated the findings of the research and saw its subsequent launch.

The workshop was facilitated jointly by NPA and the SSLS and was attended by representatives of the State Land Alliances, representative from the South Sudan Land Commission and other international organizations.

The launch of the research report was followed by a Training of Trainers (ToT) for the representatives of the SLAs on provisions relating to Land Governance and Land Rights in the Agreement on the Resolution of Conflict in the Republic of South Sudan (ARCISS) 2015.

Participants and particularly the representatives of SLAs applauded the findings of the research and the accompanying training on the ARCISS provisions relating to land governance.

The participants at the end of the workshop expressed deep concerns over the continuing spread and increase of land disputes, and risk of inter-communal underlying boundary disputes escalating into major conflicts that may impede co-existence between individuals, communities and different ethnicities, and the dire situation of IDPs in South Sudan.

However, they reaffirmed their continued and collective commitment in the search for lasting peace through security of land tenure, access to land, possession use and ownership. They also stressed that stability in the security of land tenure in the country can only be effective if the framework of the Land Act, 2009 and draft Land Policy is harmonized and fully implemented.

Thus they reiterated their call for an immediate and full implementation of Land Act, 2009; speedy enactment of draft Land Policy and the implementation of land related reforms enshrined in the ARCISS.

Based on the Research findings, the SSLS and the State Land Alliances wishes to bring to the attention of the government and other stakeholders the following concerns:

• Land disputes are common in communities and exposure to conflict, displacement, and registration status have a significant impact on whether or not a household is currently experiencing a land dispute;

• Prevalence of land-related disputes in urban areas has undermined feelings of land tenure security and reinforced demand for government-backed registration;

• The main causes of land-related disputes are squatting, boundary disputes between individuals, and boundary disputes between communities, land grabbing and unlawful expropriation;

• Most land-related disputes occurs between members of the same ethnic group and this somewhat has decreased opportunities for disputes to take on the ethnic overtones that have characterized wider-level violence since 2013;

• Conflict-related displacement has disproportionately affected members of certain ethnic communities, it is highly likely that large-scale returns will not only increase the number of land-related disputes, but also that these disputes could quickly devolve into conflicts over identity, and ethnicity;
Disputes over documents, acts of property destruction, and physical violence are common, and have dramatically undermined intra-community relations;

• There is dramatic increase in population pressure on peri-urban communities and this has provided additional incentives for community-led land demarcation initiatives;

• While evidence points to increasing acceptance of women’s inherent rights to property, there has been little change with regards to their ability to obtain and exert land tenure rights independently of their male relatives;

• Despite equal rights to own land under statutory law, the overwhelming majority of women continue to access holdings exclusively through a father or brother;

• Although a small number of highly educated women in Juba have successfully registered plots in their own names, women continue to face several obstacles over and above the formal and informal costs and administrative hurdles associated with land registration under the government and community-led processes;

• On-going displacements and returns, the cost of dispute resolution, corruption, and breakdown in the authority of local chiefs have dramatically increased the obstacles facing effective dispute resolution, and dramatically reduced incentives to seek assistance from customary and statutory authorities;

• The current inability of customary and statutory mechanisms to address land-related disputes presents a number of challenges to tenure security;

• These challenges will increase exponentially with the return and resettlement of hundreds of thousands of IDPs and refugees into highly politicized urban environments characterized by widespread squatting, looting, and property destruction; and

• There is a pressing need for the government and supporting partners to implement the Land Act and the draft Land Policy, prioritising in the short and medium term on resolving the on-going and emerging disputes.

The SSLS, SLAs and NPA commend the important work performed by the Ministry of Lands, Housing and Physical Planning and South Sudan Land Commission and encourage them to ensure the speedy enactment of draft Land Policy, full implementation of Land Act, 2009, and to seriously embark on drafting and enacting other land related legislations as a robust response to soaring level of land disputes across the country.

The SLAs once again reaffirm their commitment and determination to further enhance their cooperation in support of the awareness of basic land laws in South Sudan. As a result of this workshop the SSLS and SLAs have drafted a position paper on land related issues that require legislative attention that will be shared with the relevant stakeholders.
 

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