Shanmugaratnam (2008). Post War Development and the Land Question in South Sudan
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The Land Question (LQ) was one of the core issues behind the protracted war between the Government of Sudan (GOS) and the Sudanese People’s Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A) in the southern regions of the country. The positions of the two protagonists on the LQ seemed irreconcilable, as one was statist and the other communitarian. According to the GOS, all land in the country belonged to the state whereas the SPLM/A’s position was that all land in ‘New Sudan’ belonged to the community, while the state was ‘a custodian of the land’. The ground realities reflected this contradiction in the country as a whole, when the two parties sat down in May 2002 to negotiate a peace deal. According to existing land legislation in Sudan, more than 90 percent of the country’s land belonged to the state but in reality customary (communal) types of tenure were in practice in many parts of the country. Members of the community had individual rights to land for housing and farming, though these rights had a gender bias as women could access land only through their fathers and husbands. There were, thus, two parallel systems of land rights in Sudan – the legal statutory system and the indigenous system of tenure based on customary rights. The former served the bigger rural entrepreneurs, urban dwellers, foreign investors and elite groups to obtain land through secure leaseholds, while a large majority of land users depended on the latter, which was unable to ensure formal security of tenure. However, customary rights continued to enjoy legitimacy among the rural people of diverse ethnic groups and sub-groups in different parts of Sudan (De Wit 2001).