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Land grabbing in Equatoria is a reality

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Land grabbing in Equatoria is a reality

Sunday 4 January 2009 05:51.

By Jacob K. Lupai*

January 3, 2009 — This is in response to an article, The Equatoria Land Grabs, by one Deng Ajak Jongkuch that appeared on Saturday 27 December 2008 in the Sudan Tribune website. The article was probably meant to educate people about land gabbing in Equatoria. Unfortunately the article was grossly misleading and utterly erroneous in its contents. It added more confusion than the education of people as the supposed main theme of the article.

I have never met with Deng Ajak Jongkuch but he is already calling me names and going personal instead of proving me wrong by laying down bare facts and evidence to support his argument. In defunct of facts and evidence Deng said, “Mr. Jocab K. Lupai a man with a good writing and seems to inherited a shallow thinking tried to defined what make Equatoria unique”. He went on to say that, “Mr. Lupai little brain concentrated in small portion of the world within Southern Sudan”. In conclusion Deng asserted categorically that, “I am here to say that the issue of land grabs is a false coded word to destabilize the GOSS”. May be it is important to make Deng aware that I am a researcher, a PhD of the University of London, School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS). I therefore do not write for the sake of writing without getting my facts right. However, I represent myself but not all PhDs.

For Deng and his associates of disinformation and falsehood no amount of falsifying will make their argument add up. If anything they are only advertising their profound ignorance of the situation on the ground. Land grabbing in Equatoria is a reality. Denying or admitting it exists is a different matter altogether. Facts on the ground in Equatoria speak for themselves. As usual Deng and fellow associates in a campaign of disinformation will try to divert attention by accusing imaginary invisible hands but the problem is as visible as anything somebody else can think of. In a simplistic and misleading way Deng tries to put up a show of impression that he is a critical analyst by saying, “I spent sometimes critically analyzing this issue and I concluded that there are no land occupations in the Greater Equatoria region. The issue of land grabs is a coded word to destabilize the government of Southern Sudan”. Unknowingly Deng may be engaging in self-deception. He is an ignorant critical analyst. It is clear that Deng is misinforming his associates and unfortunately those who want to hear what they want to hear as music to their ears.

For information to all those who are genuinely concerned about Southern Sudan there is land grabbing in Equatoria. The Catholic Archbishop in his Christmas message to the faithful spoke of land grabbing as a problem. Why on earth should such a high figure in the Church mention land grabbing as a problem if it does not exist at all? My own first class plot in Juba is being gabbed yet Deng and associates want to tell the world the opposite of what is happening on the ground. If Deng had been to Juba, as he claims, wasn’t he informed of the name of the area on the left side with crowded huts between Imatongas and the Southern Sudan Legislative Assembly? If he was not informed let me inform him that the name of the area is called Hai Nyakama meaning Grabbed Residential Area (GRA). If this is not land grabbing and occupation I have no idea what it is.

I visited Hai Nyakama for different reasons but as a researcher I ended up instinctively collecting information about the area. I found it not surveyed and people helped themselves to any piece of land each could get hold of. I discovered a senior SPLA officer living in Hai Nyakama. At first the officer who was in plain clothes was shy to tell me his rank but after striking acquaintanceship I got the rank of the officer. Some people in Hai Nyakama even managed to build houses to let. When asked why he was living in such a place the officer answered that there was no place and that he had a family to accommodate. I sympathized with the officer. I found it unacceptable for a high ranking officer of the SPLA to live in such a place. I thought it was degrading. Still I got a shock when I met an advocate (lawyer) who rented a place in Hai Nyakama. I met the advocate in Sacred Heart Kindergarten Restaurant over a dinner. As southern intellectuals usually spend about 80 per cent of their time talking and discussing politics, it was not difficult to strike a conversation on that first encounter as if we were familiar with each other before. From the restaurant I dropped my friend the advocate to Hai Nyakama but he refused to let me see his place saying it was not worth it. We both laughed and parted. It became obvious to me who were the predominant residents of Hai Nyakama. I also pitied the conditions in which my two friends and the people in Hai Nyakama were living.

My visit to Hai Nyakama made me to conclude that there were two types of land grabbing. One is the grabbing of land not yet surveyed and the other is land grabbing of surveyed land. The latter is a big problem in Juba. Probably the reason it is not on the surface is because some big shots are also involved. However, the misinformed Deng and associates think that, “The land occupation issues in the Greater Equatoria region is a political tools fabricated and engineered by invisible hands that have interest to destabilize the Government of Southern Sudan”. Deng in his wonderland of naivety said, “I hope the Government of Southern Sudan is paying much attention to such conspiracy and I hope the patriots of the Greater Equatoria will stand up for the truth”. Well, I am standing up for the truth not only for Equatoria but for Sudan. The truth is that land grabbing in Equatoria is a reality. I challenge Deng and his associates whose panicking seems to be getting into their nerves to visit Juba County Commissioner’s Office where the land grabbing committee is located to get primary information on the scale of land grabbing in Juba. Deng will certainly know the majority of people involved in this heinous crime of land grabbing. It is a pity that Deng and his associates do not feel any shame of the plots of law abiding citizens being grabbed by what appears to be a syndicate of criminal gangs.

It is a fact that in Juba surveyed land with numbered plots that have been allotted to people on legal basis are being grabbed. The evidence is there with the land grabbing committee. It is not difficult for a poor critical analyst like Deng who is still a student and inexperienced to get the evidence. Yet the likes of Deng have the guts to deny the truth. A person is allotted a plot after fulfilling the legal requirements where papers are issued for the acquisition of the plot. Land grabbers as supported by Deng and associates do not have such legal papers but use brute force to terrorize innocent civilians off their land. Full information on land grabbing can also be provided by the Survey Department where a number of surveyors have been beaten up by the criminal land grabbers. The land grabbing committee has full information. Only a poor researcher may not get the primary and secondary information and cross-check for reliability and validity. Poor researchers usually do not know where, when, how and what to look for. If Deng’s article was a research project and I was to mark it, I would have marked it as an “F”.

In his cynicism Deng said,”The Bari Community in Khartoum is quick to see what GOSS has done in three years in Juba, but they kept quiet for two decades when Khartoum regime was in control of Juba and the entire region of Equatoria”. Probably the naive Deng did not know that the Khartoum regime did not care much about southerners except for the natural resources in the South. However, the GOSS is our government. We would naturally expect something better from the GOSS than from the Khartoum regime, wouldn’t we? Equatorians did not expect anything better from the Khartoum regime for obvious reasons. They now expect something better from the GOSS as the government of the South for the South and by the South. Deng may be playing out his simplistic perception. It is well known that the likes of Deng are very defensive of their poor record of behaviour towards the people of Equatoria who are not fools. Truth hurts and a system is abhorred because the likes of Deng want to do things the way they please hence the quagmire we are facing in Southern Sudan. In what should be considered the latest opinion poll analyzed in Sudanic Magazine of March/April 2008 it was illustrated that the GOSS was 90 per cent corrupt.

Will Deng say that what is illustrated in Sudanic Magazine of March/April 2008 did not have a gain of truth but another conspiracy to destabilize the GOSS? I think refusing to accept our shortcomings is in itself a problem. Admitting a problem exists is a half solution to the problem. The other half solution can be reached through a consensus or through the rule of law. However, pretending to be nationalists and only offering lip service with others seen as intruders in sharing the national cake is a sure recipe for disaster. Unless the likes of Deng eat their hegemonic greed for all the milk and honey, and power in Southern Sudan the future for all is indeed bleak. This is not to say I am a prophet of doom. I am simply echoing my observation as a concerned citizen.

I would like to make Deng Ajak Jongkuch aware that I was a lecturer in Berkshire College of Agriculture in the United Kingdom. One other thing I cared about my students was for them to be objective but of course not stifling expression of opinion. As a student I hope Deng will learn to be objective instead of being bias or simply advertising ignorance.

As for the invisible hands that have interest to destabilize the GOSS nobody in his or her right mind will allow such a thing to happen to a government one calls one’s own. Speaking the truth is not destabilization but rather to encourage a responsive system to the aspirations of the people yearning for better things such as the respect for law and justice for all. For a better way forward nepotism has to be exposed for action. It is no use covering up mismanagement that is detrimental to the very future of our nation. I was very impressed in a meeting in London on 30 December when a member of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) National Liberation Council said the rule of law must prevail so that we in Southern Sudan do not have the problem of tribalism. The Deputy Governor of Jonglei State also spoke very well on development and how efforts are being made to attract investors. He said Bor is one of the cleanest towns in Southern Sudan and in fact cleaner than Juba. The Deputy Governor said there are no empty plastic bottles lying around in the town of Bor. The Minister of SPLA Affairs highlighted pertinent issues with regards to the comprehensive peace agreement (CPA). I thought the GOSS should have such type of meetings frequently not only in Western capitals but in Southern Sudan to enlighten the people. However, I was not impressed by the Minister of Information and Communication of Unity State when he acknowledged corruption but instead said we should not worry about it for now because there were more pressing issues. This may sum up the level of corruption in Southern Sudan.

Land gabbing should not be denied it exists. It is disservice to condone land grabbing by denying it ever exists. We have to be bold enough to acknowledge mistakes for no reconciliation takes place without admitting there is a problem. For the first time in 1969 the government of Sudan admitted there was a problem in Sudan which resulted to the Addis Ababa agreement in 1972 and the subsequent CPA in 2005. I hope by the end of this article Deng and associates will have appreciated that there is a problem of land grabbing in Equatoria instead of turning a blind eye by way of denial. We all should make every effort to avoid sowing a seed of discord in Sothern Sudan only to blame imaginary invisible hands.

In conclusion, although the problem of land grabbing in Juba will soon be resolved through the land grabbing committee by mobilising resources, I would advise Deng to do a bit of research in order to be objective in his arguments to save ourselves time for better things. I would not have spent such time responding on such an article if Deng had demonstrated with evidence that I was wrong. Probably I would have sent a note of apology to readers. We should not condone a criminal activity by whomever it is perpetrated. Nepotism is a problem as seen in the denial that land grabbing in Equatoria ever exists. The truth always prevails regardless of the amount of cover up or playing deliberate ignorance. Land grabbing in Equatoria is a reality that wishful thinkers have other ideas. The question is what do we do about it?

The author is a regular contributor to Sudan Tribune and can be reached at jklupai@yahoo.co.uk

Written by torit1955

January 4, 2009 at 12:48 pm

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