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South Sudan: Bahr al Ghazal communities call for land reform

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 during a regional dialogue meeting in Wau on Sunday.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 Saturday 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 decentralized 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 5 year 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 25 February and concluded on 2 March.

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