Why the necessity, greed and emotional response is aggravating the land grabbing in Juba?

“How Much Land Does a Man Need” Leo Tolstoy 1828- 1910”.
Ateny Wek Ateny, former Press Secretary in office of President [Photo: Awan Achiek]

Ateny Wek Ateny

“How Much Land Does a Man Need” Leo Tolstoy 1828- 1910”.

A fictitious personality in Leo/Lev Tolstoy’s novel called Pakhom had a lust for wealth. He wanted to get rich by all means, and so, he had wanted to buy more acres of lands to enable him get rich. He moved from place to another. One day, the King asked him “how much of land do you want”? He said I want as much as possible”. So, the King told him to walk to any distance to find as much land as his ability could circumnavigate, with condition to come back to his point of departure before dust. Pakhom managed to walk ten miles – therefore arriving to the last point at 4:00 pm. Realizing that, he must come back to the point of departure before sunset, Pakhom felt the impossibility walking such distance in two hours. So, he decided to run the distance – arriving exactly before sunset, just to die immediately on exhaustion.

The King ordered the allocation of six metre by two meters of land for the burial of Pakhom. Then, the King said, all men need only that amount of land for burial. Greed has less chance. The moral of the story will be found in the body of this article.

Coming to Juba and the Necessity to acquire a piece of land.

The signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) on January 9, 2005 and the subsequent start of its implementation, meant the SPLA must come to Juba before the start of the Interim period. Few weeks after the start of pre- interim, Khartoum became reluctant to give green light for the SPLA forces to enter Juba, the capital of the then southern Sudan. So, the SPLA decided to march onto Juba from Yei with two full battalion armed with heavy weapons. Arriving to Juba in around September or October 2005, the SPLA soldiers were received and accorded the heroic welcome by the local population of Juba and it surrounding.  

No doubt that Juba was seriously in bad shape. Very terrible and stand almost desolate and exceedingly unhygienic. The author came from London to Juba – arriving on 17/November 2005 and Juba was never to be seen close to anything of a city. There were only two hotels; the Equatorial Hotel and Juba Hotel, both were occupied by senior government officials. With no electricity, running water, the two hotels were powered and lit by generators. Places of food was another story. Mama Zhara and Wadmail were the only two known restaurants in town, so consumers queued to book the plates before buying food. It was quite a struggle.

Sanitation was never thought of. With all government buildings built during the High Executive Council, turned into toilets, every place was filled with human’s waste. The Juba we could now simply say, “let’s the capital be moved away from, if you are still grabbing land” was not the same with the Juba I just mentioned. All South Sudanese hands are on this beautiful Juba. We just need to be mindful of hate speeches.

Notwithstanding, nothing was bad in coming back to Juba as the national capital. The failure of the SPLM’s notion of “taking town to people” and “Land belonging to the communities” policy, are two most fundamental mistakes ever committed by our political elites. A country so divided such as ours, particularly during the Kokora of 1980s could not have been expected to unite when communities thinks lands are free from government’s planning. How on earth can communities built and survey cities? Which country that had successfully done it so, we can take its example?

How the necessity of acquiring land in Juba came to being?

With all the conditions numerated above, conditions of working and living in Juba became so demanding. It is impossible for one to work in Juba, and sleep in Wau for example. For our brothers and sisters from Juba county, renting from them was the first priority- given how the issue of land belonging to the community prevented new town planning. Security personnel rented and so the civil servants too. With inadequate living conditions getting worse, and the demand for accommodation soared, soldiers started to take lands that was surveyed by Khartoum’s Juba City Council- particularly the area starting from Juba Na Bari, Munuki and later Gudele.

Most of those lands that the soldier forcefully grabbed and later sold were plots already allotted to Mujhaideen who were by then on the verge of exit from southern Sudan as the referendum was nearing. The author is an eye witness, but owing to his high principles of not trying to take a land in which he doesn’t have the title deed, did not acquire any land by illegal means.

Again, given the position of Juba as the national capital, it means any South Sudanese has right to come to Juba, to look for a job and to reside here. There is no community bigger than the country to dictate on the government. I am cognizant of the fact that some of the stalemate in our resolve to build a nation-state are going to be addressed by our constitution, but the fact that more than 70% of our revenue is spent in Juba, the biggest beneficiaries are the local community in spite of the growing land grabbing, alas.

To be continued in the series of articles.

The views expressed in The Dawn Newspaper’s opinion section are solely the writers’ opinions. The veracity of any claims made are the responsibility of the author, not this website.

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