Equatorians: Stop Land grabbing, Occupation and Colonization Nonsense

BY: Jay Johnson, SOUTH SUDANESE, MAR/23/2013, SSN;

The recent call and push for federal system of government in the Republic of South Sudan by Equatoria governors, politicians, intellectuals, as well as the assertion of right of self-determination for the eventual independent Republic of Equatoria (ROE) or Democratic Republic of Lado Enclave (DROLE) has been based in part, on the alleged Dinka political domination, systematic discrimination and marginalization of Equatorians, colonization and occupation of the Equatoria region by Western NiloticS and Dinka in particular.

Whether the people of Equatoria region have genuine social, economic or political grievances against Dinka and Western NiloticS is beyond the scope of this article. Put it differently, I defer to challenge or affirm these grievances given time constraints. I will however, address the question of land grabbing or more broadly the alleged occupation and colonization of the Equatoria region by Dinka.

Sudan Second Civil war (1983 – 2005)
It is worth to remind the readers that war has consequences, one of which is the displacement of population, either within or outside the border of the state. This displacement phenomenon was undoubtedly felt and experience by people of South Sudan as the civil war intensified and became sectarian during the early and late 1990s. Millions and Thousands of civilianS were forced out of their ancestral land. Most sought refuge in big towns of Juba, Malakal and Wau. Others went north and settled in Khartoum, Port Sudan or Kosti. Hundreds of thousands fled to East African nations of Ethiopia, Kenya and Uganda from where majority were permanently resettled to North America, Europe and Australia either through Kenya, Ethiopia or Egypt.

Others as we know were internally displaced, mostly to Equatoria region given its strategic location and proximity to Uganda and Kenya. The settlement of Equatoria region by internally displaced Dinka and other Western Nilotic population took place within the context of war. Put it simply, there was no grand plan to invade the Equatoria region and specifically, Magwi County by Bor Dinka IDPS. The war forced them to sought refuge in the border region of Equatoria and Nimule town in particular.

Thousands and hundreds of South Sudanese who fled during the war are still living in their host nations of Uganda, Kenya, Ethiopia, North America, Australia and Western Europe. Ironically, they do not face eviction threat or harassment contrary to what their Dinka and western Nilotic counterparts experience in Equatoria region. They do have rights under international laws and treaties governing refugees or displaced person to either remain where they are or repatriate home voluntarily.

And why in the world should these people (IDPS) be called squatters and land grabbers in their own country? The eviction threats, land grabbing and Squatters nonsense campaign have been particularly spearheaded by the Bari and Madi communities more so than any other community in Equatoria region. Is there any evidence of land grabbing and occupation? Or is the presence of Dinka people in Equatoria region being used as pretext of starting another Kokora?

These communities and their elites need to be reminded that the Equatoria region and the state of Central Equatoria is still part of the Republic of South Sudan. It is obvious that the Bari and Madi elites are pushing for an independent Republic of Lado Enclave. I do not intend to argue for or against the idea of an independent Equatoria region in this article. To do this would require a separate article on my part for which I am neither prepared nor have the time to make the argument either way.

My argument is that the people of Upper Nile and Bahr El Ghazel regions like people of Equatoria region are citizens of the Republic of South Sudan. Therefore, it is invalid and irrelevant to label and consider these citizens as Squatters, Land grabbers, occupiers or colonizers, when they are in fact exercising their rights to live, work, or travel within the defined borders of the state in which they hold citizenship.

Until such time when the Equatoria region becomes an independent nation whether through the barrel of gun or through diplomatic means, they should cease this persistent harassment directed against former internally displaced persons of Dinka and Western Nilotic origin.

Kokora will no longer go unchallenged at this time and moment in an independent Republic of South Sudan. The first Kokora of 1980s should be treated as a shameful historical footnote that should never be revisited. The people of Upper Nile and Bahr el Ghazel region do not want to relive the humiliating experience of the Kokora when thousands of them were shamelessly evicted from their own country (Sudan) and region (South Sudan).

The notion of Equatoria region for Equatorians only is not only discriminatory but illegal under international law. Modern nations and states do not restrict the movement of its citizens within her borders. Equatoria can either succeed or else should accept to live in peace with their fellow Western Nilotic as citizens of African nation.

The transitional constitution of the Republic of South Sudan (2011) contains Bill of rights and the right to freedom of movement, travel and residence. Specifically, Chapter 2: section 2 & 27, explicitly stated that “the rights and freedom of individuals and groups enshrined in this bill shall be respected, upheld and promoted by all organs and agencies of government and by all persons.”

Section 27 further went on to unequivocally state that “every citizen shall have the right to freedom of movement and liberty to choose his or her residence except for reasons of public health and safety as shall be regulated by the law.”

All levels of governments and individuals within the borders of Republic of South Sudan have legal obligation to respect, uphold, promote and enforce all the provisions of the constitution without prejudice. Citizens of the Republic of South Sudan have right to live, reside, move and travel wherever they choose without undue interference from the government, agencies, groups or individuals.

The Madi and Bari communities as well as Central Equatoria State, Magwi and Juba counties have legal obligation not only to respect, enforce this provision but to protect the rights of any persons residing within their respective jurisdictions.

As a new member of the United Nations, the Republic of South Sudan has an obligation to promote and enforce the United Nations declarations and laws. The right to mobility (article 12) stated that “everyone lawfully within the territory of the state shall within that territory have the right to liberty of movement and freedom to choose his or her residence. It went on to say that citizens of state have the freedoms to travel, reside and work in any part of state where one choose within in the define border.

If the Equatorian elites see the transition constitution of Republic of South Sudan as a Dinka political playbook, then they should respect the United Nations mobility right under article 12. World bodies and institutions like United Nations will become critical as the call and push for an independent Republic of Equatoria or Democratic Republic of Lado Enclave (DROLE) by Equatorian elites gathered momentum in the coming seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, years or centuries.

I personally do not see the possibility of an independent Equatoria region. The Equatorian elites are dating themselves. Available data on independent ethnic movement is very discouraging and disappointing to say the least. The people of Equatoria region are better off perusing government reform with other regions. Political reforms cannot be achieved overnight. Politics is a hard, cruel and unforgiving game that requires focus, perseverance, determination and unity.

The Equatoria demand for federal system or independence is unrealistic. It is a hit-and-run strategy which will not produce the desired results and outcomes. It took South Sudan 55 years to get their independence from Sudan. So the Equatorians must prepare for 100 years of struggle if they genuinely believe in their call for an independent nation.

Is there land grabbing in Equatoria region and South Sudan?
Land grabbing can be defined as large scale acquisition of land through buying or leasing by domestic and international companies for commercial purpose. And absolutely, there is land grab in Equatoria region in particular and South Sudan in general. However, a Dinka or Western Nilotic civilian residing in Equatoria region cannot be considered a land grabber or squatter when in fact as is the case here, their presence took place within the context of war and citizenship.

As citizens displaced by war, they have right to live, work and move anywhere within the defined territory of the Republic of South Sudan. Whether they should go home or remain where they currently reside is their individual and collective decision. No one should tell them what to do. It would also be disingenuous to see them as either domestic or foreign corporations who lease, buy or grab Madi and Bari land for commercial uses.

Obviously, foreign investment companies, South Sudanese and Equatoria elites in particular are the real perpetuators of land grabbing. The Equatorians intellectuals do not, out of dishonesty want to point fingers to themselves and their leaders but they want to use Dinka as scapegoats as they attempt to break away from the nation. Nor do they want to acknowledge the fishy and fictitious foreign commercial deals made in some instances, without the knowledge and consent of the local community.

Land grab statistics in South Sudan is alarming and disappointing. According to November 4th 2011 report by Norwegian People Aid, foreign investors have acquired a total of 5.74 million hectares of land between 2007 and 2010 for agriculture, biofuel, tourism and conservation investments.

You tell me what the total hectares of land are now in 2013.

Majority of foreign deals occurred mostly in Equatoria region, Jonglei and Western Upper Nile. Put it simply, 10% of South Sudan land has been illegally or legally leased to foreign corporations without the knowledge or consent of the communities in which they took place. The lands deals in question are about 57,400 kilometer square, which is more than the total land mass of the country of Rwanda.

Examples of Land grab in Equatoria (Central Equatoria State)
The Mukaya Payam, Lainya county of Central Equatoria State: this is one of the well publicized and outrageous land grab examples in Equatoria region. As reported by Oakland Institute, the deal was done on the back of Pojulu community of Mukaya Payam by fictitious Mukaya Payam cooperative with American New York based Investment Company, The Nile Trading and Development.

It was a 49-year lease of 600,000 hectares of land with option of additional 400,000 hectares of land. The company obtained exclusive rights to exploit the natural resources in the covered area. The price was 75,000 South Sudanese pounds ($25,000), translated as $16 per hectare of land. The signatories were allegedly Magistrate James Yosia Ramadalla for Mukaya Payam cooperative and Mr. Douglas for Nile Trading and Development.

May be some of you know Mr. James Yosia Ramadalla in person. He lives in Juba but somehow allegedly manages to auction off the community land without their knowledge and consent.

Parjok and Owiny kibul of Magwi County: is another case of land grab in the state of Eastern Equatoria. The Uganda Defense forces were reported to have engaged in illegal logging of teak and appropriation of South Sudan land to Uganda peasants and farmers.

Apparently we did not hear any cries of land grab from Equatorian elites in any of these cases. But they have been crying blood and wine accusing South Sudanese IDPS of Dinka background of land grabbing and occupation as pretext of their hatred of Jieng people.
And as reported by the Norwegian People Aid (NPA) and Oakland Institute (OI), the Mukaya Payam land deal was not done by Dinka politicians or generals, but by the Equatorians themselves.

There are other cases of land grab in Western Equatoria, Central equatoria, Jonglei and Western upper Nile that require separate article to discuss. Land grab is immoral and illegal practice, which is being perpetuated in large part by Equatorian elites at the back of their respective communities. It is a multi-million dollar scam which is unfairly blamed not only on the Dinka politicians and generals but on the poor and innocent IDPS in the region.

Somehow, it seems that all Madi and Bari people were living in Nimule and Juba before the war. And who was then living in the villages if everyone claims to have lived in these towns?

It is possible that these illegal deals might have been discovered and addressed satisfactorily for which the author is not aware of. But the point is to show to the Equatorian elites some examples of land grabs in their backyards. They either intentionally over look them or were not aware of their occurrance.

Perhaps the Equatorian elites need to tell us, the public, how much Equatorian, Bari and Madi lands have been grabbed, squatted on or occupied by Dinka and other Western Nilotic? Quite often, it is easy to claim victim-hood and wrongdoing, and sometimes difficult to substantiate or provide the proof of the alleged crime. What percentage of Madi or Bari land is Nimule or Juba town? Is the town of Nimule 30% or 50% of Madi land?

South Sudanese citizens of Dinka and Western Nilotic origin in Equatoria region cannot be reasonably and objectively labeled as land grabbers when in fact they did not appropriate any piece of native land. I have been to Juba, Nimule, Yei, Kapoeta, Torit, Yambio and Kaya. The Dinka population in these towns is residing within boundary limits of these respective towns. None of them own any land in the adjacent and surrounding villages.

Dinka IDPS in Equatoria region in general and Central Equatoria State in particular are citizens of the Republic of South Sudan. They have right to freedom of movement and residence as guaranteed by United Nations declaration, article 12 (mobility right) and as enshrined in the transitional constitution of the Republic of South Sudan (chapter 2; section 2 & 27).

The Equatorian elites can either declare unilateral independence or else they ought to stop land grabbing, Squatting, occupation and colonization nonsense!

Jay Johnson is a former SPLA freedom fighter. He participated in many battles in Equatoria region including the capture of Nimule and the failed Juba town liberation during the early and late 1990s. He can be reach at jayjohnson053@gmail.com


  1. Anyangaliec says:

    Impressive piece, Mr. Jay. This is exactly what those thick skulled beings need to understand, instead of yelping for nothing other than ENVY against their fellow Southerners. South Sudan is for all and will remain so for generations and generations after us.

  2. nyaputa says:

    Mr. Jay,
    Are you contradicting yourself or what? This is the first time I heard Jenge saying there are IDPS in equatoria. I thought you came to equatoria to liberate the cowards (equatorians). shame on you. please pack and go to the place you called your home and am sure you do have one too like everybody else in south Sudan. don’t be cheated by your repugnant constitution.

  3. Bura. B. says:

    It is sad when lies are twisted out to be truthful statements. Is it really true that no single Equatorian got involved in the liberation of Torit, Nimule, Yei and Kapoeta…. etc ? Please learn to call a spade spade and you will really be liberated!! How dare you state that nonsense! Are you implying that the army we have is a tribal army? Any army of occupation? Imperialist army? Please come out clear about this because we have nephews, cousins, uncles and brothers who served in this second phase of the war that began in 1983 and still serving this organisation. I wonder what you mean by that! Do you mean these people are mercenaries you hired to fight for your sole greed interest?
    Man be truthful to yourself. We who are alive know the genesis of this war properly. Wait for next three generations for you deceive which I believe you will not succeed.

  4. Duma Lokiden says:

    Jay, what do you understand by freedom of Movement, Settlement as stated in the rotten constitution of South Sudan? freedom of movement & settlement does not mean people should in a community and settle in a place as a community with all their animals. what is written in a constitution is an individual freedom of movement and settlement in South Sudan as a community as in the case of Nimule, Yei and Juba.
    Worse of all this community don’t respect the rules and laws of this Country and settled in a land without acquiring any legal documents either from the Boma, Payam, County or State Authorities of that particular State, what do call such occupation of land by a big number of people from one tribe? yes, they are nationals of this country but they don’t abide by the laws. my question is why are Dinka still living as refugees and IDPS? let them go back to their Ancestral land.

  5. Tyson says:

    The article has nothing to offer! The resolutions from the Equatoria Conference were not a wish list drawn out of the blue. The whole of Equatoria is united behind their resolutions. Equatorians are ever peaceful and will not be drawn to your rhetorics.
    Please differentiate between refugees and so called IDPs within your own country.
    In 2005, the warring parties were forced to ink the CPA. Thus, the balance stick between liberators and cowards!!!!!!!!!!!! The end of the war calls for return home and participation in real and meaningful liberation struggle. The liberation of backwardness, illiteracy, hunger, poverty, etc.
    As we take towns to villages: leave the legitimate land owners to contribute in the development of their villages.
    Please go to your villages and leave fooling yourselves. Have you ever seen any Equatorian struggling to take any piece of Jieng land?
    The world is watching some of your ugly behavoirs.

  6. Bro jay,
    you should be ashamed by now after reading your insane article. Can you tell me a very constructive reasons why you still call those land occupants in Equatorial region as IDPs after 8 years of peace and almost 2 years of an independent country? Why are the Equatorians only complaining of Dinka and Nuer tribes respectively? Are you aware that some of your tribes men are still in refugees camps in Uganda and Kenya while the reasons of been as refugees have already gone? Have you really visited your Dinka and Nuer areas or states and did you get your people there? what do you make up of the scenarios of jebel dinka, new site and 107 plus other places in juba which are forcibly occupied? please stop blaming Equatorial politicians and start telling your people that peace has come and we are to go home.

    Please go home and start building your states than to be hanging on liberation promises (you know very well, what was garang liberation promises). by the way, are you not ashamed of the lives of these poor guys crowding in Forex bureaus and siting under trees and tea places the whole day? try to tell your people the truth, try to help them to learn the culture of coexistence and peace and try to teach them to be a law abiding people. Above all tell them to relinquish from the policy of eradication as they are doing to the murle tribe in jonglei state under the protection and support of the worse war lord gov. Kuol Manyan and the dinka government in juba. you guys are the curse of this nation

  7. Dan says:

    Pitya lo Tongun,
    Jay Johnson did not say anywhere in his article that he was a Dinka. He could be a patriotic South Sudanese son from Equatoria. That was the way those who had a chance to experience bush life were brought up to be more nationalistic and less tribalistic. Most of them accepted the fact that they were going to lay down their lives for the whole Sudan and not just South Sudan. It is outrageous that little or old men of your kind that grew up only knowing his mum and dad consider these exceptional men and women as Dinka without any proof just because they do not agree with your tribal hatred. Too bad you can not change them because they have spent a great deal of time in the bush with fellow southerners from different backgrounds.
    And when you are telling South Sudanese to go home when they are already home, which other home are you telling them to go to? Dude you need to know the difference between land grabbing and citizens’ right to dwell anywhere they choose in their country. You do not have to be a Dinka to be a land grabber. It can happen even within the same family. So find something else to kill your time with and not this hateful nonsense.

  8. Alphonse Kenyi says:

    Jay Johnson,
    What a name hiding behind cowardice-ness! All satanic arguments you and likes trying to sell to your tribesmen will satisfy your inner circle fat bellies of ignorance. Your narration of UN documents reflexes how troubled indeed we are in as an independent republic unless you are a robot. I’m not going to waste my time to correct your ill fitted arguments, however, I do agree with you that the UN charter calls all nations to facilitate movement of refugees within their territories during disaster time. However, it doesn’t guarantee forcible residency in the host territory whether or not it is within the same country.

    To correct Mr. so called Jay, let me give you an example: In the United States, when Hurricane Katrina hit the city of New Orleans, Louisiana State, the evacuees who fled the State to other states were treated as IDPs or refugees in other states and were given shelters until situations allowed them to return to their State of residency or acquire residency in their new adapted state through legal ownership of housing not through gun threat or manipulation of the poor locals.

    I personally believe there shouldn’t be any reservation or restriction of any kind to Southern Sudanese who chose to live in any part of South Sudan as long he or she respects the social order and abide by the laws of the hosting community. But the problem is that, the so called Jenge, in other words, our modern Mundukuru don’t have this in their tribal Dictionary even the word sorry.

    Imagine Mundari community settling in Jenge lands, that would be a disaster to Jenge existence. As some has put it, it is Ok for any Southern Sudanese to reside any where in South Sudan as an individual but not immigration of entire clans or sub clans with their animals, and not under the pretext of liberation which is a total state of insanity. To those who claim liberation of South Sudan should know that we all know the frustration of failing to achieve the project of New Sudan which is engraved in the manifesto of SPLM/A. If the cowards were indeed cowards and chose to vote for the unity of the Sudan, I think we would not be talking this trash and crap. Every body knows what the result would have been.

    South Sudan cause started when Mundukuru started acting toward South like the Anglo-Egyptian colonials which slowly but surely took shape in the form of first independence struggle leading to the ill fitted SPLM/A notorious tribalistic Movement South Sudanese have ever experienced in their modern history.

    It was the collective efforts of a number of factors that led the leadership of the so called SPLM/A to recognize that there was no way out but to surrender to those forces including the collapse of Mengisto H. Mariam, 1991 tribal split within SPLM/A and George W. Bush administration pressure to both the SPLM/A and the sitting NCP led government by Omar Ahmed al Bashir. Please stop preaching ignorance that will serve no good to none of us.

  9. info@southsudannation says:

    In response to Jay Johnson’s letter entitled “Equatoria: stop land grabbing, occupation and colonization nonsense.” We know that people were displaced by the war. now that the war is over why not move back to where you came from? There is no place better than home, so sweet home sweet.

    We all know that as south Sudanese we have the right to live and work anywhere that is Ok, but should not be a mass migration with cattle to Equatoria or elsewhere because we have that right. We should not pride ourselves of having 38 Millions heads of cattle, cattle are very destructive and are a threat to the ecosystem. The pastoralists must find a solution to their problems than importing them to other areas where the people are farmers and depend on the agricultural farm land, once destroyed will cause more harm than good as there will be hunger and food insecurity year after year.

    We need to preserve our ecosystem as the Sahara desert is creeping southwards at an alarming rate of 10km per year and is caused in part by cattle destroying the ecosystem. Nobody hates anybody, but the way some people behave is the cause of the hatred and lack of respecting the properties of others whereby certain adjectives are used to describe certain people as land grabbers and so on. And use of words such as liberators which has replaced the word “Born to rule”.
    Finding a solution to any problem is the best option than immigration which is the cause of all the hatred and lack of understanding. Do not impose your ignorance unto others, but learn to live in peace with your neighbor.
    We all have a place called home that is where our heart is, sweet home.

    Justin C Opiny

  10. Oketa says:

    Excellent piece that has successfully outlined what everyone has for years wanted to hear. The truth of the matter is the alleged Dinka land-grabbing garbage is a concocted story rooted in the same old, mundane Kokora. While the Equatorians have mastered the corning game of making the Dinka and Nuer do the most dangerous job of fighting Mundukuri and then come party like a midget monkey, the Dinka and Nuer have learned that like a shrewd investor, you benefit from where you toiled.

  11. upiu says:

    Thing is, when we fought the Arab north we were all united as southerners. This level of current bickering was non-existent, we tolerated ourselves with all of our bad and good.
    Logic would tell me that when the Republic of Equatoria is finally liberated from Jieng and Nuer, this all-good Equatorian-ness will perish and it will be tribes against each other as the only thing that unites the three states of Equatoria and their ethnicities is Dinka and Nuer. Watch how the would-be-fathers of the new nation play their game.
    Until we realize that our problem in South Sudan is more fundamental than us against them, we have a long way to trek. Push for the PROPER LAWS IN PLACE at county and state levels. We just emerged from a long war that left our communities in state of anarchy. Every county has a commissioner who is responsible for making laws which governs that area and whoever contravene those laws can be dealt with by the law without any tribal prejudice. Same with all the states.
    Justin as a moderator raised a good point on ecosystem and emphasized how sweet home is. I suspect you are writing from ‘home’ away from home just like most commenters on this site who are so passionate about the home states/regions/counties yet they do not live there.

  12. Dinka land says:

    @infosouthsudan.com I have nothing to say again but keep silent and watch you people if you think it is the only solution you will meet the full expections of the community. Iam sorry to be in the same country with the people who keep silent when there is war and when the war is fought by liberators, then they turned against their heroes and no apperciation. Close the website because it becomes biased against muonjang. I don’t see they reason Muonyjang is hated when they freed the people of south Sudan? Iam sorry.

  13. Domac says:

    My fellow citizens, if Equatarians need an independent state, they might be ready for the war, because there is no short cut to independence. Equatorian politicians, are you capable to defend your land or fight guerrilla war against Dinka, Nuer, Shulluk and more? if you are not ready for a war, then stop your crazy idea of independence or you might be wiped out like Joseph Kony of North Uganda.

  14. wad juba says:

    nothing comes out of nothing, people should accept the truth.

  15. robert says:

    The issue of land grabbing should be addressed by the authorities concerned and citizens who are not aware about some of the things that are involved on it.

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