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South Sudan citizens call for land reform

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South Sudan must make sure that land belongs to the State and to be administered by the government, the people of Bahr al Ghazal region said.

The community expressed this sentiment during a regional dialogue meeting in Wau on Sunday, 3 March 2019.

The transitional constitution of 2011 states that all land is owned by the people of South Sudan, and charges the government with regulating land tenure, land use and exercise of rights to land.

Although South Sudan has passed laws recognizing community or customary land rights, campaigners say these legal protections are often undermined in practice.

Alfred Taban Logune, head of the national dialogue’s committee for information, told media on Saturday, 2 March 2019, that attendees at the regional dialogue of Bahr al Ghazal region rejected community and ancestral land rights, saying this issue needs be addressed by the country’s leadership.

“They said land should belong to the government so that it can administer it in accordance with the needs. They said the national government should be in charge of land,” he explained.

He further said the great majority of participants demanded federalism as a system of government and opposed a decentralised form where powers and resources are controlled by the national government.

“They said federalism is appropriate for South Sudan and that powers should be given to the states,” he said.

According to Alfred, the majority of participants at the regional dialogue meeting also said South Sudan would be better off with the current presidential system than parliamentary. “They said the president will have one term and will serve for five years only,” he said.

“Also, they proposed that the state governors, parliamentarians and county commissioners will be elected, in the same way as the president,” he added.

Alfred, who is also a legislator, said the people of Bahr al Ghazal supported the current 32 states, but demanded for more states.

“For example, citizens of Raja said they should have their own state and people from one of the areas in Tonj demanded for a new state,” he explained.

He pointed out that the delegates of Bahr al Ghazal region reaffirmed their commitment to peace and stability in South Sudan.

“They resolved that all organized forces must be national in character, they basically said all tribes should be represented in the organized forces,” he said.

The official further said the people of Bahr al Ghazal have criticized the rampant corruption that has become prevalent in the country.

“They said the situation continues to be alarming. They proposed that any corrupt official should be asked to bring back public money or properties, and should not be reappointed to any government position,” he said.

Alfred noted that discussions at the regional conference were open and frank, urging the national government in Juba to implement all resolutions of the country’s national dialogue process.

“We have heard the views of our people of Bahr al Ghazal. We will go to the other two regions to hear their views. I would like to urge our people to express their views openly so that we find a solution to our problems,” he said.

In December 2016, South Sudanese President Salva Kiir launched the national dialogue initiative that seeks to reconcile and unite the East African nation torn apart by more than five years of civil war.

But South Sudan opposition groups did not attend the regional dialogue conference which started in the town of Wau on Monday, 25 February 2019 and concluded on Saturday, 2 March 2019.

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