Naidoo (2013). Mine Action and Land Rights in South Sudan
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Land, and issues surrounding land, have played a prominent role in the narrative of the independence of South Sudan. Access to, and control of, land and natural resources was one of the core issues driving the conflict between the Sudanese People’s Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A) and the Government of Sudan (GoS). Addressing land issues will therefore be critical to South Sudan’s future. Some of the country’s main land‐related issues include: accommodating returnees, resolving complex border disputes with the GoS, increasing the productive capacity of land for agricultural and urban development and addressing the tide of what continues to be a very high level of internal displacement. Within this, mine action actors have been integral in returning land to the safe use of the people of South Sudan.
In 2010, the Geneva International Centre for Humanitarian Demining (GICHD) published a case study on ‘Landmines and Land Rights in Southern Sudan’2 which noted that ‘the complexity of addressing land rights issues in the country should not be underestimated’. This statement holds true today. While there have been considerable changes since the drafting of that report, not least independence and the strengthening of Government structures and legislation, challenges unquestionably remain.
Land issues in South Sudan are complicated by the fact that all ten states are contaminated with mines and other Explosive Remnants of War (ERW), which continue to kill and impede the delivery of humanitarian assistance, threaten food security and agriculture, delay reconstruction and development efforts, and pose risks to the safe return of Internally Displaced People (IDPs), returnees and refugees. A first step to addressing land rights has been to clear land to: facilitate access for peacekeeping forces and humanitarian assistance; make land safe for the millions of people displaced during the conflict with Sudan; and return it to productive use. Since becoming an independent state in 2011, the Government of South Sudan (GoSS), along with humanitarian actors, has continued the task of removing landmines/ERW and enormous strides forward have been made. Since 2004, a total area of 1,099 km2 of land and over 21,000 km of roads have been released in South Sudan. The strengthening of national capacity to address mine issues, coordinate activities and create national strategies to connect humanitarian response to development objectives have linked mine action to productive and communal land use.