Transparency and accountability key to resolving land disputes in Bor

unmiss south sudan bor land ownership jonglei un united nations peacekeeping peacekeepers

In Bor, an UNMISS workshop on peacefully settling land disputes brought together 46 participants to come up with sustainable recommendations on promoting accountability and transparency. Photo by Angellah Mandoreba/UNMISS.

15 May 2024

Transparency and accountability key to resolving land disputes in Bor

Angellah Mandoreba

JONGLEI - Disputes over land ownership and use are among the main causes of intercommunal conflict in Bor, Jonglei state, which ultimately costs many lives, the destruction of property, and displacement of vulnerable communities.

A recent workshop facilitated by the United Nations Mission in South Sudan in Bor brought together key stakeholders to address this issue, including local and traditional authorities, civil society, the judiciary and displaced people.

Forty-six participants, including eight women, unanimously agreed that transparency and accountability are essential to resolving these kinds of disputes and fostering broader social cohesion and development.

“The workshop provided a starting point for authorities to address gaps in their jurisdictions. For example, emphasis was placed on how proper record keeping can avert duplication of land allocation which drives conflict,” explained James Wour Puok, Bor’s Deputy Mayor for infrastructure.

Chop Tuakchol from the Ministry of Local Government and Law Enforcement echoed those sentiments: “Now we know how land must be distributed in a manner that does not trigger conflict.”

Discussions focused on legal and institutional frameworks, including bridging the gap between policy and practice; roles and jurisdictions of actors; civil and criminal aspects of land disputes; rights and access to land for vulnerable groups, including women and youths.

“What is required is a concerted effort by all stakeholders starting from citizens to law enforcers to ensure corruption free processes. Robust awareness among the general populace about land policies and legal grievance redress mechanisms will go a long way in holding duty bearers to account,” stated community representative, Peter Garang Nhial.

An in-depth analysis of women’s access to land was also undertaken with cultural traditions, high levels of illiteracy, and lack of rule of law to protect women’s land rights cited as major impediments.

For Elly Agak Rebecca from the Jonglei State Women’s Association, the knowledge acquired at the workshop will empower her to advocate more strongly for gender equality on land issues.

“I am taking it as a personal responsibility to transfer what I have learnt to fellow women, especially relating to our legal right to own land and the procedures that can be followed to enjoy this right.”

The workshop, held under the theme “Effective Land Management and our Role” made a series of recommendations. These include the conduct of a land audit to determine ownership and use to ensure better accountability, digitization of land records and a database to avoid duplication of land allocation and prevent corruption, unification of land fees collected at payam, county and state levels, building the capacity of the judiciary to adjudicate land cases, and harmonizing statutory and customary institution’s land administration and management.