There’s no “Res nullius” land to be seized in South Sudan.

BY: Moses Nyara, South Sudan, MAR/04/2019, SSN;

Rights over land in South Sudan are never lost or abandoned so as to become res nullius (Latin: Means ‘nobody’s property’). The idea that  the land must belong to the government isn’t only a deliberate  plan to extinguish seisin (English: means legal possession especially of land) of the land in South Sudan but a threat to the existence of the South Sudan State.  

South Sudan isn’t a settled territory. The South Sudan Nation State didn’t result from a conquest. 

Land rights in South Sudan predates any nation State or government. There has never been acquisition of sovereignty over any land in South Sudan. Not by the French, the British or the Arabs.

Our ancestors fought viciously against such a vice. There is no one to whom we must swear fealty (means a feudal tenant’s sworn loyalty to a lord) or make homage.  

The utterance in Bahr al Ghazal region by the Dinka during the so-called dialogue meeting in Wau that the land must belong to the state is nothing but an attempt to introduce the English doctrine of tenure and must be resisted.

The lands of South Sudan belong to its people. Land ownership is held by hereditary right. Lands are the absolute properties of their owners and not subject to any rent, service, or acknowledgment to a superior.  

The utterance in Bahr al Ghazal has nothing to do with peace dialogue. There is a deliberate plan to extinguish seisin in South Sudan through introduction of the doctrine of tenure.

The doctrine of tenure originated in the system of social and political organization known as feudalism which is practiced in England.

At the heart of the doctrine of tenure is the theory that all land in England is held either mediately or immediately by the sovereign. Thus, no person has absolute ownership of their land. Rather it is held ultimately by grant from the crown.

On acquisition of sovereignty, the government becomes the absolute and beneficial owner of all land. When you buy land, be it from the government or from any person for that matter,  you don’t buy it once and for all. You pay your money for a grant of tenure.

The condition of the grant is that you must render services to the Crown in return for the grant of the land. The doctrine envisages an ongoing relationship between the crown and the tenant.

The application of the doctrine is South Sudan effectively means  that the government of the day will seize all the lands and render its citizens landless.

It’ll force the inhabitants of the land into a dependent land holding- the holding of land in return for rendering of services.

The land will become a source of many land relationships such as justice and policy. For example, such a policy would be paying of land tax or the requirements to develop your land in a particular manner.

If the tenant failed to fulfil her or his obligations to pay rates to develop the land, then the land is liable to forfeiture – the land is forcefully taken away from the citizen.

The effect of the doctrine is that the state is not just the sovereign of the citizens and territory with the realm, but it’s the absolute lord paramount over landholders and their land.

The  political party or president in power will be free to grant large tracts of land to any persons or persons who’d supported him in battle or elections.

The party and government of the day will be free to reward their supporters to ensure their continuing loyalty, thus raising corruption, large-scale resettlement of populations and even a new colonization of South Sudan.

Nothing will stop the government from driving away the inhabitants of a piece of land in South Sudan and giving that land to a Chinese or Arab developer if the people of the land are not able to develop it to the requisite standard the government has set.

There are plain examples of such acts. The Ethiopia’s government has been accused of forcing tens of thousands of people off their land in the Gambella region so it can be leased to foreign investors.

There’s  increased interest by foreign investors on African land and South Sudan is a prime target. Less because its leaders are corrupt but more so because its inhabitants are ignorant of the law.

The question is whether the people of South Sudan are prepared to cease sovereignty and allow the state to take jurisdiction over the lands of which their fathers and forefathers shaded blood in defense of it.

More importantly, whether the people consider the government of the day a government of the people by the people and for the people. A government worthy to be cede the right to?

The author, Mr. Moses Nyara  can be reached via: Disclaimer: the views are solely mine and do not represent any institution or government.

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