Pantuliano (2007). The Land Question. Sudan's Peace Nemisis
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Land is a central issue for both rural and urban communities in Sudan. It is not just a means for livelihoods and basic survival, but also has profound cultural and socio-political dimensions. Historically, established elites have managed to lay successful claims to the lands of poor communities, especially in rural areas. This tampering with established rights has been a recurrent cause of unrest and conflict in the country.
There is no unified land tenure legal framework across Sudan. In the North, despite the fact that official land law has undergone transformations under successive governments, the legislation is essentially founded on colonial land laws. Customary land rights are generally not recognized by the government and statutory legislation has traditionally been used to bypass local customs by the state or for private interests in rural areas. Government laws concerning land tenure have been rooted in the principle, introduced by the British colonial administration in 1898, that unregistered land is assumed to be owned by the government unless the contrary is proven. Successive legislation on land introduced in the 1970s and 1980s (particularly the Unregistered Land Act of 1970 and the Civil Transaction Act of 1984) has further strengthened the privileges of the state and has allowed elites close to government to acquire land at the expense of rural people. Expropriations were common particularly in South Kordofan (namely in the Nuba Mountains area), where illiterate farmers and pastoralists in the 1970s saw their land assimilated into mechanised farming schemes or simply registered in someone else’s name. The grabbing of land led to massive displacement and was a main reason that in the late 1980s led people in South Kordofan to join the SPLM insurgency in the South. Similar displacements occurred in the 1990s, particularly in oil concession areas such as Unity State. Land issues were also at the heart of the conflicts in Eastern Sudan and Darfur....