Gwalla Community of Bor county petitions South Sudan President Salva Kiir over a controversial land ownership

 

 

Mr President,

While you are striving to keep grip on insecurity in the country by extinguishing fires, the enemies are stoking up fires by pursuing policies of sedition, such as the confrontational and controversial “Land Acquisition Bill” by the Jonglei State. It is not unknown to you how the Bor people suffered the indignity and dehumanisation, including grave violations of their right to life, at the hands of these few opportunistic misdirected individuals for 22 years, without retaliation, preferring to bear with patience and valour the indignity and humiliation as necessary sacrifices on the altar for national liberation. They disproportionately paid for the cause with their blood for a day like this when we will all live in peace. But the enemies of peace have other ideas. They want to keep us busy over land issues, leaving grave matters of national concern, such as preparing for the borders, elections, Abyei and 2011, while they amass resources at the expense of the people. 

Mr President,

It is not our interest to distract you. We acknowledge that your plate is overflowing with much pressing matters of national importance. We would have loved to simply follow this matter in courts even though our confidence in the court system has been shaken by the recent ruling of the re-trial Judge (April 2008) and, had Hon Alier not resorted to the use of political connection by secretly addressing the former Jonglei State Governor to resolve the matter unfairly. As we stated in our petition we will use all means till justice is restored and, addressing your office is one of these means. We appreciate that your time is tight and appeal that you will spare some time for our just cause, as we alluded that Malwal-Agorbar is just the tip of the iceberg for much sinister plans for the displacement of the local population with attendant grave security implications. 

Mr President

Please accept our great assurances and highest consideration.  

Having said this, here is the real and authentic story of Malwal-Agorbar put into larger context, and our position as the heirs of this disputed land which rightfully belongs to us.

We the Diaspora sons and daughters of Gwalla de Bol believe unequivocally that Pan e Bol Rieth (currently known as the Land of Gwalla, of Bor Dinka) solely belongs to sons and daughters of Bol Rieth. We absolutely believe that there are no interests, concurrent or otherwise, in that land besides and above those of Gwalla Community. We strongly believe that Pan e Bol is an inheritance/providence from the Lord Almighty vested through our forefathers. Our history, as a community, is ripe of folklores honouring the sacrifices of the generations gone by, who guarded it and paid for it with their blood throughout history until they handed it down to us intact. 

Before we state our position as community on the disputed piece of land between, we the Gwalla Community and the daughters of late Bilal Abdalla, let us walk you through the historical background of Malwal-Agorbar, “the land in question”. 

Abdalla Bilal, popularly known as Lual Ayen, was one of a few northern Sudanese who settled in Bor Town. His mother Ayen de Nyok traced to Abang clan of the Hol Group of clans of the Bor Dinka, of which Gwalla is the largest. Bilal or for that matter Lual, ran a small shop in Bor Town in the early 1950s. As Sudan was moving towards independence in 1956, Bilal thought of extending his business. At the opening of a Boarding Elementary School in 1953, a Civil Hospital before Christmas of 1955 and a planned girls elementary school, it occurred to Bilal that it would be appropriate if he were to hold a small vegetable and fruit garden in the vicinity of Bor Town as this would put him in a better position to win contracts from the local authorities to supply foods to these emerging institutions.

  

Having decided on this business plan, Bilal knew that land belonged to clans and its ownership was vested within the communities in Southern Sudan. Getting a piece of land outside the town boundary was fraught with great problems. He was aware that he would have to negotiate his way with the pastoral clans who legally lay claim to the land. 

Initially, Mr. Bilal thought of getting a plot in Malwal e Chat, an old native Administrative Appeal Court Centre just five miles away from Bor Town Centre. Malwal e Chat, belonged to Abang, the clan of his maternal ancestry. Bilal understood that he could not encounter problems with the locals as his mother hailed from that clan. However, this was not possible because the land enclosed by the Bor – Juba road to the East; the road into the Station from the South; the White Nile to the West and the Koko Baar or marshes to the North was demarcated and gazetted as a forestry and game reserve. 

This is where Malwal-Ayuet (or sometimes called Malwal-Agorbar) came into play. Bilal knew he had a cousin and, for that purpose an important dignitary from Gwalla Community named Garangdit Bior Garang (popularly known as Garang Akukwek and father of Agot Garang). Their mothers were sisters and for that purpose, Bilal used his cousin to sponsor his negotiations with Gwallei in the summer of 1955. In the negotiations that ensued, Garangdit appealed to Gwallei to consider his cousin’s as though he was a guest (as Akukwek’s guest) who wanted to live next to him, and so Bilal’s request was treated accordingly. 

As a result, a serious consideration was made. It emerged that it was not possible to grant Bilal the highest ground immediately on the loop of the Nile for two reasons: First, it was where Tong Akuot (or Lierpiou, a local deity) summer camp was based and therefore not feasible for private use. Second, Thany Ka Ajong ke Dhuor e Joh had their home there, just next door to Lierpiou deity shrine, and had a right to abbot the agreement as integral members of Gwalla Community. What is worth mentioning here is that Thany were and are regarded as integral members of the community and had marital relationships with prominent leaders of Gwalla like Alier Bol Pach and Riak Garang e Joh. At last, Bilal was granted/leased a limited piece of land further down the Nile at the edge of the marshes towards Chamachol summer camp in concession to his cousin Akukwek. Although this piece of land was very small (perhaps not more than 5 acres or 4.5 fedans), Bilal had no alternative but to endorse stipulated conditions before taking hold of it. These included:

  • That he had to concede that the land belonged to Gwallei and that he cannot lay any claims whatsoever to its ownership;
  • That he is entitled only to the produce of his sweat and nobody would interfere in anyway with his crops;
  • That he would build a fence around this plot of land to prevent cattle from trampling on his vegetables otherwise he would have no complaints as the land was part of the pasture from Pakai and Mathiang cattle camps used by Gwalla to and from Chamachol in the summer;
  • And that if he were, for any reason, to cease activity or move on, the land would revert to its rightful owners, the Gwalla clan.
 

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