There is a belief that foreign investment in Africa will be a catalyst for better jobs and food security in the continent. This same belief is found in South Sudan. The root of land grabbing is an aim for resource control. The issue of land grabbing in South Sudan has began 4 months prior to the country gaining independence in 2011. From 2007 to early 2011, foreign investors acquired 2.64 million hectares of land, a land that is the size of Rwanada (Norwegian People’s Aid).
Land Ownership in South Sudan
Three groups categorize landownership in South Sudan: ethnic communities landownership, government land ownership at the state and local level, and private leaseholders. Community land ownership is the dominant one, which allows communities to use land under customary laws. Government owned land ownership mostly falls under national parks, game reserves and forests. Although private land ownership or private land leaseholders are predominantly found in urban areas, recent foreign investors are interested in land in the rural areas. Land in rural areas tends to be leased by communities and government institutions (Norwegian People’s Aid).
Massive land grabbing in South Sudan, especially from 2007 to early 2011 was intended to facilitate South Sudan’s Development by allowing large-scale private foreign (IRIN News). Equatoria region (Jonglei and Western Upper Nile) of South Sudan is where a lot of land grabbing took place (Oakland Institute, 2013). Foreign investors own 10% of the country’s land. Massive land grab in this particular region was focused on extracting resources for land itself, oil mining and agricultural production for foreign investors like the US, UK and some Arab countries (RT News, 2013). In 2008, a land deal was signed between Nile Trading and Development and Mukaya Payam Cooperative. This agreement highlights a lease of 600,000 hectares of land in 49 years (Rhode, 2011). In addition, the price for the land that was leased was too low. There was lack of transparency to the public about the land deal until the agreement and reports were released. Lack of transparency strips away the community’s rights to their land because the agreement was signed without their knowledge and consent (Rhode, 2011). In the agreement, it was d
ecided that 40% of the profits from the land agreement was supposed to go to the Mukaya Payment Cooperative and the 60% was supposed to go the Nile Trading and Development. A Mukaya Payam Trus was established as a trust fund to funnel money for community members. However, there is no evidence to suggest that this plan has been carried out (Rhode, 2011).
“We the chiefs, elders, religious leaders and the youth of Mukaya Payam, unanimously, with strong terms condemn, disavow and deny the land lease agreement reached on 11 March 2008 between the two parties.” The petition states that the lease agreement was reached without the knowledge of the community and that it is illegal. It is signed by seven chiefs, a reverend, two elders and two others. The President of South Sudan, H.E Salva Kiir, has subsequently given his support to the community stating “you are the government and you have the powers” (“We the chiefs, elders, religious leaders and the youth of Mukaya Payam, unanimously, with strong terms condemn, disavow and deny the land lease agreement reached on 11 March 2008 between the two parties.” The petition states that the lease agreement was reached without the knowledge of the community and that it is illegal. It is signed by seven chiefs, a reverend, two elders and two others. The President of South Sudan, H.E Salva Kiir, has subsequently given his support to the community stating “you are the government and you have the powers” (Think Africa Press, 2013).
Social impacts on Indigenous people:
In the Equatoria region of South Sudan, where indigenous groups such as the Dinka reside, it is prone to land grabbing because it is argued that because the land is utilized by the Dinka, who came into occupying the area as a result of war and citizenship (Dinka are citizens who are displaced by the civil war). Because there is no proper law that allows ownership of land by the Dinka, the elite have been selling land to foreign corporations (South Sudan Nation, 2013). With land grab deals, issues of land rights, food insecurity, poverty and skewed development patterns emerged (IRIN News). The four year land grab deals that took place between 2007-2011 showed that local governments failed to protect the rights of those occupying their land because, such people do not have legal land tenure that is recognized by the state government (Provost, 2012). Lack of land rights and land protection takes away community and customary land rights and government failed to protect those it was intended to serve (Provost, 2012).