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

Category: Diaspora
Published on Monday, 27 July 2009 23:30
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Members of Gwalla community of Bor County have voiced their community’s position to the president of South Sudan Salva Kiir Mayardit over a controversial ownership of Malwal-Agorbar, a piece of land on the outskirt of Bor Town.

The land ownership is claimed by daughters of late Abdalla Bilal, also known as Lual Ayen, who used to be a Bor Town businessman in the old Sudan. Bilal’s daughters are married to some of the powerful and influential men in the land. A previous court ruling decided in favor of Bilal’s daughters, a judgement which the Gwala community believes was reached based on the influential roles played by some of Bilal’s daughters’ husbands.

An appeal court hearing will take place next week in Bor Town where Bilal’s daughters led by Zenab Bilal will battle it out with Gwalla traditional leaders.

Signed by 117 members of Gwalla Community in the Diaspora, the petition presents historical account behind the controversial land ownership and details of influential roles that might have been played by some of the powerful husbands of Bilal’s daughters. Below is the petition. 

 

Petition to H.E., First Vice President of the Republic and President of the Government of Southern Sudan over the Land Ownership of Malwal-Agorbar, Bor County, Jonglei State  

CC. “ “Hon Speaker, Southern Sudan Parliament

 “ “H.E. Minister for Legal Affairs and Constitutional Development, GoSS

 “ “ H.E. Governor, Jonglei State

“ “ H.E. Chief Justice, South Sudan.

“ “ Hon Alier Riak Makol, Council of State, Khartoum

“ “ SPLM Secretary, Jonglei State

“ “ H.E. Commissioner, Bor County

“ “ Hon Gwalla Traditional Authority Leaders

“ “ Jonglei State Assembly

“ “ Hon June Malet and Ezra Mayom Ngong, Representatives of Kolnyang, Jonglei State Assembly

“ “ UNMIS

“ “ Police Commissioner, Jonglei State

“ “ ASCOM Oil Company

“ “ Media outlets.  

H. E. Mr President,

We, the undersigned members of Gwalla Community Diaspora, have watched with interest developments in our homeland- South Sudan since peace returned. We are satisfied with what we have seen: the strenuous endeavours you continue to make to establish peace among our various communities on the bases of unity, dignity and mutual respect, to realise security; and to maintain stability throughout the homeland. We are heartened by the steps you have taken along that path- the promulgation of Juba Declaration 2006; the incorporation of OAG into the SPLA; the continued organisation and training of the national army, including the recent much welcomed reorganisation of its leadership; and the most recent convening of the Kings, Paramount Chiefs and Traditional Leaders Conference that affirmed their role as partners with GoSS in governance. You are on record appealing for balanced development, fairness in the extension of services to the states and within the states; even-handedness in state dealings with citizenry and have formed the governors Forum to realise these goals and; finally but not least called for zero tolerance to corruption within the machinery of the state. You continue to look for opportunities for improvement in the performance of GoSS, as witnessed in the recent ministerial reshuffle. All the above resonate with us and with the citizenry across the board. We appreciate and affirm these steps as the best way to prepare our people for the upcoming elections and for the determination of their destiny by 2011. 

However, a few opportunists, fortune-hunters and spoilers of our unity throughout the 22 year history of the liberation struggle, the local close-knit associates of the former leadership of the movement have reared their ugly heads in Jonglei State. They are unlawfully grabbing land from the local population. They have allocated themselves and members of their families plot after plot while uprooting people without compensation or allocation; they have violated the agreement between the state and local communities by allocating residential plots, in rural community lands, to this rogue and criminal group outside the 5km (3 mile) radius agreed for Bor Town. Basically, the town population is being engineered while the historic owners are being told to go to the villages. This unlawful land grabbing includes acquiring areas by falsification as we addressed in this petition. We believe Malwal-Agorbar is just the tip of the iceberg to much sinister schemes that can make the already bleak security situation in Jonglei State worse.


 

 

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:

 

Having accepted these conditions, Bilal started in 1956 to plant some vegetables. Indeed, he also planted few citrus and mango trees at a very limited scale. In 1957 he also installed a small pump (2-4 inch diameter) for irrigating vegetables during the dry season. He ran the garden personally till his unfortunate death in a traffic accident in late 1958. At the time of his passing, Bilal left behind a young and vulnerable family. His wives and three elder daughters were unschooled (not literate) and Mohamed El-Hassan, the only son, was in his early teens and in 4th Year, Bor Elementary School. The current main plaintiff, Zenab, presumably was pre-school aged. The family needed every help and support they could get at this time to look after the small shop in Bor Town and maintain itself. Management problems soon dictated the abandonment of cultivating the farm immediately afterwards (as early 1959). Gwallei felt no need to revisit their gentlemen agreement now that Bilal had passed away. For all practical purposes, they simply considered Bilal had moved on and so the agreement lapsed. The farm reverted to pasture (the original form of land use) and no economic activity worth noting was taking place, even during the relative calm of post 1972 Peace Accord in South Sudan. Using the terms of the gentlemen agreement under which Abdalla (Lual Ayen) was granted this small plot of land by Gwalla Community, it is ridiculous for Abdalla Bilal’s daughters to lay any claim to ownership of Malwal-Agorbar as the whole. For nearly five decades in disuse (1959 – 2005), this land from Gwallei’s perspective had reverted to its rightful owners (the Gwalla clan) and has been used as part of the original pasture for a very long time. We were therefore outraged by Hon Abel’s instruction to the former Jonglei State Governor which surfaced in 2006, asking for its ownership on the behalf of his in-laws. Neither late Bilal nor any member of his family ever lived in Malwal-Agorbar. They never had any interest in this land for five decades which makes this claim preposterous from our standpoint. Five decades is a long time, sufficient to have settled this matter one way or another, had they challenged our (Gwalla’s) legitimacy to the use of the land as a pasture, especially following the relative calm of 1972 in south Sudan.      

Having walked you through the history of this disputed plot of land that rightfully belongs to Gwalla Community, it is now clear that Bilal’s daughters have no legal standing to lay claim over this piece of land whatsoever. Here is why we, as a community, firmly believe that we will prevail in winning back our ancestral land of Malwal-Agorbar.  

First and foremost, these baseless claims of ownership by daughters of late Bilal especially by Zenab Bilal deserve a rebuff from Gwalla Community by all means. Land ownership in rural Sudan had always been vested within the community/clan or tribe and, the current constitution of south Sudan enshrines this right (see Article 178 (4), (6), (7), and (2). As a matter of fact, Bilal and/or his daughters never had any legal possession to this plot and neither will they. Their father’s tenure was based on a verbal gentleman accord reached with the clan leaders of which its time and purpose have lapsed. Gwalla folks generously extended a helping hand by hosting their father, in time of his utmost need, on Gwalla ancestral land in the first place. We consider the behaviour of Bilal daughters, in launching this case, as disgraceful. It speaks volumes about their moral fortitude and displays revolting ingratitude, unknown in our culture. They exchanged Gwalla treatment of their father with kindness and goodwill with ingratitude and disdain.   

Second, we want to categorically refute the claim by Mr Abel Alier, the brother-in-law and advocate of the plaintiff, that Late Bilal had a bananas garden on the opposite west bank (see Mr Alier’s petition to former Jonglei State Governor dated 08/10/2005). This together with the claim by Abel and his legal alibi, Mr Thon Leek (see the Governor’s Testimony of 16/10/2006), that Bilal’s land extended several kilometres (km) up to and including east of Bor-Malek road are outrageous and shameful packs of lies. Let us take them one by one:

  1. The area just opposite the old Bilal’s farm/orchard is a grazing ground for a summer cattle camp called Liet nhom between Jirkuat (pronounced Jir-kwat) and Chamachol camps and, is situated just south of the island (Tur) in the middle of the Nile to the North. Under no circumstances, whatsoever would the locals (Gwallei) have allowed any kind of a garden to restrict livestock from using an already limited dry season pasture.
  2. As for the claim that his father-in-law land fell east of Bor-Malek road or that it was ½ km east/west and 2km south/north by the legal alibi, they are laughable. First, let us face it, Bilal never had a land east of the road. Second, the distance from the orchard straight to the road is at least 1km, but let us take Mr Governor’s word that it is 1/2 km and, using a simple arithmetic gives Mr Bilal’s holding as 235 feddans (250 acres) and over 500 feddans extending to road (save east of the road for the moment), as claimed by Mr Alier. We leave it to the authorities and jurors, in particular, to make sense of the kind of area figures being branded about here by the plaintiff, Mr Alier and their alibis. But one thing is clear if Mr Bilal had been able to obtain such a large chunk of land from the locals, his so-called agricultural land would have been a commercial scheme and would have required, according to the rules at the time, licensing and registration with both Ministries of Agriculture and Irrigation in Khartoum. But one thing we ask of the court and the authorities on that handed out testimonial is, does the plaintiff possess such documentation? Or a similar approval from Gwalla Traditional Authority at the time, as back up to the sorts of areas being branded about? We ask such information to be presented for scrutiny.
  3. Hon Alier claims, and we quote “this piece of land was once unlawfully occupied by Total Oil Company, at the beginning of 1980s”. We wonder if Total Oil Company just descended from space on Malwal-Agorbar without Mr Alier prior knowledge! Didn’t Mr Abel- Numeiri Administration grant Total Oil licence in 1980/81 to set up shop in south Sudan and to carry out oil exploration on the East of River Nile from Bor to Kapoeta/ Ethiopian border? Or did Mr former Vice President of Sudan and President of the South expect Total to operate on this large track of the South without a base camp? Supposing Hon. Abel didn’t know or approve of the base camp at Malual-Agorbar, did he or the in-laws he now represents ever made representation to the government to that effect? If not why? Hon Alier and his claimants may need to answer these questions, but the truth of the matter is they had no ownership over the land. That is why they couldn’t challenge either Gwallei using it for pasture or the government. With Mr Alier seated in power, the best for their intertwined interests (Alier’s and his relatives’) was to bolster the regime, not challenge it over someone else’s land that might put Hon Alier in awkward position. Consequently, it was sacrificed, like the Jonglei Canal before it, on the altar for power. But “HURRAY” to the CPA! We have it back! The real losers in this whole sinister episode and who continue to lose out, as this saga continues, are the Gwalla Community whose prime land was usurped by the state, with active or passive support from Mr Alier, and without a Dime in compensation. As a Community, we were utterly helpless to confront their brute tyrannical Administration to challenge the secret deal which handed over our land to Total Oil without prior consultation. The events of the mid 1970s when two students were shut dead in Juba, under Mr Abel’s watch, during a popular public protest against the ill-famed Jonglei Canal were still fresh in our people’s minds as Total Oil setup its base camp in Malwal-Agorbar at the beginning of the 1980s. Practically, we could do nothing. Now it is our sincere hope that, with the CPA, those days of tyranny, where public good was sacrificed in exchange for power and personal gain, are gone to no return and justice for the ordinary people shall rule throughout our land.    
  4. We ask that the claims by Mr Abel and Co. be understood for what they are - lies. They represent a case of “maximise-your-claim to establish-the-minimum”. Gwallei are not playing the extortion game here. This game, to us, is simply a none-starter. Gwallei ancestral land is not subject to bargain chips.
 

Third, we have become aware of the recent judicial ruling (April 2009) that gave the land ownership to Abdalla Bilal’s daughters and which undermined a prior court ruling in 2008 and the gentlemen agreement in which Bilal was granted a temporary use of the land. We disagree and are ready to appeal the decision of this kangaroo court and ask that it be annulled. The constitution of the jury or court and the evidences submitted before it were inadmissible in court and should have been dismissed in a fair trial, as a matter of procedure for the following reasons: 

  1.  
    1. Justice Ayak Kom should never have been involved in the appointment of the judging panel because of conflict of interests. Mr Justice Ayak Kom was until very recently a junior Legal Counsel in Mr Abel Alier’s Law Syndicate in Khartoum following his discharge from Sudan Judiciary by the NCP government in mid 1990s. Neither should he have been considered, under normal judicial procedure, as a person with no vested interest in this case. His former partner, Mr Abel Alier is an interested party to the case and in effect, a prosecutor behind his wife, Thiyama Bilal, who is one of the daughters of Abdallah Bilal. It would not be a stretch of imagination if Mr Abel may have been behind the scenes to influence the appointment of Mr Justice Kom to the Jury entrusted with the case. Having saved Justice Kom from destitution when he was kicked out of Judiciary and faced with vicious unemployment in recent past, it is very likely that Mr Alier had considered that the time was right for him to get a payback from Mr Justice Kom, who obliged by pre-deciding the case in favour of Abel’s wife. With the appointment of Mr Justice Ayak Kom to the Court, Mr Abel Alier was, in effect, a prosecutor and a Judge at the same time.
 
  1.  
    1. We also observed, with disdain, the witness statement of another of Mr Alier’s Alibis, the former Governor of Jonglei State, Mr Phillip Thon Leek, who was instructed by Mr Abel to hand over the land of Malual-Agorbar to his in-laws (and by inference to himself). Despite Mr Alier knowing perfectly well that his claim to this land, on behalf of his wife and sisters-in-law, was contested, Mr Alier unashamedly went ahead with the instruction in the hope that Mr Thon Leek would use the power of his office as Governor to grab the land from Gwalla Community and hand it over to him as planned. To Mr Thon’s credit, on sensing the strong sentiment from and resolve of Gwalla Community to hang on to its land, at whatever the cost, he became wiser than his former boss in the ill-fated Jonglei Canal Project. He (Mr Thon) decided to deliver what would superficially appear to be some rude awakening call to Mr Alier’s camp by not grabbing the land, using the state force, and cleverly played the witness card instead. Essentially he knew what he was doing. He was the indispensable witness who orchestrated, on behalf of Abdalla’s daughters and their husbands, the provision of fraudulent testimonials, under his instruction, from public service departments in his Administration for the plaintiffs to present in the Court of Law (see Bor County Commissioner’s statement retracting his previous witness testimony). It is important to remember here the close connection between Mr Alier and Mr Thon Leek because, this connection was central to Mr Alier’s instruction, in the first place, and motivated him to instruct Mr Thon (the Governor) in the manner he did. The tie between the two men (Mr Alier and Mr Thon) date back to the years when the former Vice President was at the helm of power in South Sudan. Mr Alier, during his term as President of the then High Executive Council for southern Sudan and Chairman of the ill-famous Jonglei Canal Executive Organ, had elevated Mr Leek from young inexperienced field officer in the Project to that of the Third most senior executive official (Director) and based at the Project Head Office at Langbar, Bor Town. Mr Alier, rightly from his perspective, had expected Mr Thon Leek to do him a favour this time around by acquiescing to his request, thereby resolving the matter unfairly in favour of Mr Alier and Co. in a clear abuse of state power against legitimate claims of Gwalla Community.
 
  1.  
    1. Zenab Bilal, wife of a retired notorious medical General Practitioner (GP) and current MP in South Sudan Parliament Dr Chol Dau, went around to Public Service Offices in the Jonglei State Capital, Bor boasting about the power and influence of Bilal’s daughters husbands (Hon Abel Alier, Hon Dr Chol Dau, GoSS Commissioner of Police Mr Makuei Deng and Mr Ambassador Charles Manyang) that would, in her words, sweep away any anticipated challenge from Gwallei to their (the Bilal’s) claim. In an attempt to make their case strong, she collected from public servants fake and unsubstantiated statements (the so-called documents) in support of their claim in Court (see a Claim of damages evaluation submitted in the initial Court case). Of course, it is not difficult to imagine that she (Zenab) used every possible trick in her book of lies and charm to enlist cooperation from officials including arm-twisting, intimidation and/or promises of rewards once the case was won. While she was on that mission the husbands mobilised behind the scenes some judges to rule in favour. Clearly, this contravenes matters of legal procedures and prejudices fair trial.
 

It would appear clear to any rational thinking person, save the legal minded, that the re-trial court decision in this case was predetermined/ prearranged on the outset of the constitution of the kangaroo court and, the court was nothing more than a badly staged caricature, intended to dress up an illegitimate decision by the Court in a legal form. To make this point clear, Mr Justice Kom was overheard, following his secret visit to the area in contest and before the panel was formed, as saying that the case of Bilal’s daughters, dismissed in an earlier court ruling, was going for a re-trial. 



May we remind the jurors that according to customary laws of the majority of South Sudan’s tribes, lands outside the jurisdiction of towns and cities, national forest estates and game reserves, are collectively held in trust by tribes and clan (sub-tribes) communities who only pass it on to posterity, just as they had received it from their forefathers and, that Western style system of “Titles and Deeds” is not recognised as mechanism, either for holding or dispensing of such communal lands. May we also explain, in the context of this appeal, that “a Title” is a legal document that delimit a piece of land on which a title is vested (e.g. Lord of Cornwell) while a “Deed” is a legal document signed by an individual, detailing how his business holding and/or land can be disposed of in case of legal dispute with business partners or on his passing. We concede that in Sudan some form of inheritance/will does apply, but only for purchase lands or lands given out by the government in towns and cities, where the government has control. Such voluntarily surrendered lands by local communities to government for public use were/are usually gazetted and publicly held by the government in the form of towns, cities, forests and game reserves. In a nutshell, this is how our present towns and cities came into being. The government of the day has authority over this type of land ownership to grant holdings, in form of residential plots to individuals or public infrastructural and developmental activities, using a fair transparent process. But in marked contrast to towns and city lands, the rural collective ownership means that rights to traditional homeland of the clan are not transferable, by inheritance or otherwise, to individuals not belonging to the paternal genealogy of the clan. Therefore, no amount of wealth, influence or power held by a none-member of the local community can sway the community from exercising this traditional right to withhold land. Yes, in south Sudan one can move, settle or setup shop among a given rural community by connection (like Bilal) but this doesn’t bestow upon the settler land ownership rights. Such are the tribal customary laws in south Sudan (e.g. our displaced could not settle in Equatoria for example) and Pan e Bol is no exception to these rules. The inalienable right of local communities to ancestral lands is constitutionally recognised in the Interim Constitution of South Sudan (see Section 180, subsections (2), (4) and (6) of ICSS). In addition, the Constitution (Section 175, subsection (3) clearly obligates courts in South Sudan to apply customary law. For the kangaroo court to ignore all these clear constitutional directives and to proceed and deliver its unjust verdict against Gwalla de Bol, is a clear violation of ICSS that should annul the constitutionality of the re-trial court and the legality of its verdict. As for us, the Community of Gwallei, we consider the verdict as none-binding.         

Let us stress here, that Gwalla de Bol from the start were very conscious of the fact that land is an enduring asset that, not only provides a permanent homeland for them but also an everlasting asset for their stable social, cultural and economic wellbeing as a community through the provision of adequate pastoral land for their livestock. That is why, Gwallei, laid down strict conditions before granting a limited access to Bilal to cultivate this very parcel of land. 

Now with the return of the internally displaced members of Gwalla Community with thousands upon thousands of herds of cattle from Western and Central Equatoria States to their ancestral homeland, the detrimental effects of this court decision to the wellbeing of this community cannot be overestimated nor can its security implications be unclear.  

Putting Malwal-Agorbar issue into larger context, we have also been made aware of the fact that Jonglei State Government did adopt unilaterally a fraudulent, controversial, and confrontational policy called “Land Bill”, sponsored by the Hon Minister of Infrastructure and Physical Development annexing lands extending 11 miles North to Baaidit including Pan e Maketh and Makol e Chuei, 11 miles East to Makwach, Mareng and Kolnyang to Pariak 25 miles South of Bor Town and, covering almost all traditional grazing lands of Bor County, and especially Baidit, Makwach, Anyidi and Kolnyang Traditional Court Centres (Payams) combined as state land. This includes the land (Malwal-Agorbar) we are now addressing in this petition.  

Let us make one thing clear, we are a pastoral community and always had been throughout history. The link between us, our livestock and pasture should be apparent in anybody’s and everybody’s mind. Holding onto our traditional land and pasture is a human right issue and a matter of survival (of to-be or not-to-be). We want to send a message to the nouveaux riché and those who have intents to abuse their authority and public trust or to the misguided who may perceive themselves to be above the law in Jonglei State, that Gwalla will defend all their traditional pasture at any cost, using every legal and media network available to them. Gwalla will also seek the support of people of goodwill across south Sudan and enlist the solidarity of all local communities of Bor County, especially the communities/clans of Baidit, Makwach, Anyidi, and Kolnyang in Bor South that are faced with this illegal land grabbing by the State of Jonglei. By devising such policies, the Jonglei State by design/intent or wit, is being confrontational with the local populace and is forcing them to make a stark choice between their existence (none-displacement) and the state. The choice is clear- people come before the state and, the state exists for the people.  

Our people had been conscious throughout of the inalienable right of their children’s children to ancestral homeland well before the modern nation state of Sudan came into being and we are not going to forfeit that right easily. Momentarily, we are also aware of the fact that this right has been enshrined in the constitution of GoSS, and will use every avenue and means available to affirm it. We will execute the mandate by the forefathers to tenaciously possess, diligently use, and staunchly guard and protect Pan e Bol (Gwalla) should the circumstances entail. We shall continue to access, possess, use, and/or protect all the land of Gwalla (Pan e Bol) from Mathiang-Adar North, Malual-Agorbar, Malek South and to Kolnyang East. We will not be deterred by those who may use none-procedural and immoral methods to obtain favours from corrupt officials or may abuse their influence, because we are convinced that truth will eventually prevail.  

We want to emphasise, by exposing the above web of unhealthy network, to the South Sudan public in general and, GoSS Judiciary in particular, that Bilal’s daughters and their husbands have relentlessly abused their influence and public trust, as may suit, to manipulate public officials (the statement of Bor County Commissioner), applied nepotism and clan connections (see the Document from Ministry of Physical and Infrastructure Development concerning the size of Bilal’s holding, the exaggerated estimates for damages submitted by Ministry of Agriculture, Jonglei State), all of which do not approximate to the reality on the ground, either in the past or present time. We invite anyone interested in this case to verify our claims by visiting the site of the original farm. Its dilapidated fenced boundaries are still intact. But may we register here that we were not surprised by the exaggeration of the Plaintiff’s holding estimates and damages, given that Hon. Ministers and her husband hail from this group in Twic East County. Since 2005 the Hon Infrastructure Minister is ill-famed for favouritism and discrimination in distribution of residential plots in Bor Town in favour of a limited band of wrong elements in our midst at the expense of the local communities and other ethnic groups, in what is traditionally a Bor land (see http://www.sudantribune.com/spip.php?article30017;http://www.sudantribune.com/spip.php?article27866 http://www.sudantribune.com/spip.php?article27866). We understand even families that had lived in Bor Town since 1950s have lost plots under the pretext of Town planning. Others have been inhumanely uprooted with neither alternative plots nor compensation. Every city or town in the world mirrors the majority of locals in its population. It is what makes cities distinct from one another. Bor Town is the exception: its population is being engineered by the Hon Minister of Infrastructure. Whether or not we accept this fact is another matter. The attempt to grab Malwal-Agorbar is part of a grand design by the group during the liberation struggle while we continue to slumber! This recalcitrant group had plans to resettle certain sections of the old Greater Bor in the prime land of Bor South, from Bor Town to the border of Central Equatoria, displacing traditional communities that lay claim to this land, using the State force of New Sudan. The group bragged openly of having emasculated Boor, not knowing in their naivety that people didn’t retaliate because Boor had set their sights on achieving national priorities of liberation and peace. 


       The manner of soliciting information used by the plaintiff’s camp is shocking and, smocks of a vile corruption. For the State authorities to abandon their duty to impartiality in administering justice and, to come down on one side in a legal suite among its citizenry is unbelievable, abhorrent and revolting. All officials, from the previous Governor down, did not give themselves time (not a chance) to weigh the claims and counter claims in this case before coming down on the side of the plaintiffs. It appears like they were simply swept off their heels by the power of the names behind the plaintiff claim that they seem to be falling over one another, as to who would render the most brilliant testimonial in support. Reading those testimonials one could not fail to discern where the authorities favour lay. They had unfairly decided, contrary to the norm, to side with the rich, powerful and mighty in power. The case is a clear example of land grabbing prevalent in the Jonglei State Capital, exacerbated by the rich and powerful using their muscle and resources and working in tandem with few corrupt officialdom against legitimate rights of local communities. This curse must and should be fought head on by all in the South to the very end. Corrupt judgements, irrespective of whoever makes them should not and will not be allowed to stand unchallenged in this 21st Century. 

It is our view, herein, that the only authentic documentation admissible in court, is for Bilal’s daughters and their husbands to produce a certificate of land purchase from Gwalla Traditional Authority dating back to the 1950s, and carrying the signatures of Chiefs Ajak Pac Ajak or Alier Ajuong and Mr Kelei Kur, the Kolnyang Court Clerk at the time, as a witness.  

It was common knowledge in Bor Community that when Bilal’s will was disposed in court and involved long legal battles with Mr Abdel Fadhil Agot in Juba at the close of the 1960s, this particular piece of land wasn’t in the will, otherwise we would have challenged the daughters to produce proofs, as we do now, rather than rely on fraudulent, Post-dated statements from young public officials who are not knowledgeable about the origin of this case; are simply eager to please to be in good books, and the provided testimonies by public servants keen to payback favours received in times gone by. Such testimonials are not accept in the court and should have been thrown out. Our position in respect of such documents is affirmed by the recent position taken by Bor County Commissioner, who realised his error of judgement and had to publicly retract his statement because the kangaroo court, understandably, wouldn’t allow him to do that in court, for they, the Justices, had already made up their minds (stitched up their verdict) on the case and felt they would be embarrassed before their sponsors if they were to change course. We want to point out here, that falsification of documents with intent to wrongfully acquire material or moral benefit is perjury and a perversion of justice punishable by law.  

It was clear, right from the start, that this whole matter was motivated and driven by nothing but greed. Getting rich quick at the expense of the wretch of South Sudan (represented here by Gwalla Community), using extortion and falsification of facts known to all, is the name of the game. The Plaintiffs want to extort wealth from ASCOM at the expense of not only Gwalla Community but the entire South Sudan for the benefit of runaway wolves. For who would believe that, a local clan (like Gwalla) that prizes it prime pastoral land would give away over 200 Feddans (see our estimation of area given early on) of its land to a townsfolk (Mr Bilal), as claimed by Hon Alier and his greedy bunch of relatives? Bilal didn’t have the means during those days when he ran a small shop in Bor Town. So, the patch at Malwal-Agorbar was just a small homestead (like any Dinka family farm (5 acres (4.5 Feddans)) run by a single labourer (Mr Majok Deer) who manually worked the farm, planting vegetables, few citrus, guavas and mango trees. Save the contradictory element of the figures branded for Bilal Agricultural land, even if he said he have had the 20 Feddans claimed by his daughter, Zenab, he would have required a tractor or other Agricultural machinery and a construction of a canal for irrigation (not Majok Deer) to work it, neither of which Bilal could afford till his death. The aim here clearly is “let us maximise the extortion loot before it is too late”. For it should be recalled that one of the conditions given to Bilal when he was leased this land was that he would have no ownership claim to it and that the land was to revert to pasture once he (Bilal) ceased to stay on. That was the case after his death when this land became part of the Pakai/ Mathiang-Adar pasture. We repeat we are not aware of any claim to this land prior to 2005 when Mr Alier secretly submitted his claim to the former Jonglei State Governor. The issue was simply stirred up by the arrival of ASCOM for oil exploration in South Sudan and being rightfully granted lease by the Gwalla Community, sanctioning a request by the County on behalf of the state, proving our assertion of extortion.      

We want to draw the attention of the nascent judiciary in South Sudan to the fact that this case is a test case that could determine the public perception of the judicial system in South Sudan. Whether or not it is worth bestowing upon it the seal of the third authority in the South Sudan governance system hangs in the balance. The case represents many flashpoints in the South, especially Jonglei State and needs to be deliberated upon by experienced competent judges known for their moral fibre, wisdom, honesty and integrity. We trust that this will be the case and the August Judiciary will dismiss the ruling by the re-trial Judge and uphold the decision of the initial court.   

While this land issue is to be followed in a judicial court of law as we stressed above, let us make it crystal clear to the rich and the powerful up there who may be tempted to use their (nouveaux riché) status to buy judicial favours and/or abuse their authority and place in public trust that the public in the South is at their heels and watching. We empathise also, while we will sustain our claim to this ancestral land, we concede that for the general good of the people of south Sudan, international and national investment companies maybe leased small parts of this land and we are available for negotiation with the state (GoSS or Jonglei) to determine those parts, on a case-by-case basis, as was the case with ASCOM. This will ensure that we retain the right to ownership on land that maybe leased once the time and purpose of the lease are over and prevent the abuse of the privilege we accord to the state. Under no circumstance would we accept displacement over our ancestral homeland by the rootless and fortune-hunters, who have no relation to this piece of land. We have seen in this case that all the testimonials given by the State of Jonglei were politically motivated discrimination against ordinary people interests (e.g. Gwallei are not on the List of Honourables). Let the State of Jonglei be warned- “Go on and grab the land with your fraudulent Land Bill: The Displacement Bill” sponsored by the Minister for Infrastructure noted in this petition and be prepared for the consequences. We have every reason to believe that this Bill is fraudulent. For how can the governor be removed and sign bills the following day after his relief from office! If he did the Bill would be unconstitutional. It is up to the former Governor to publicly explain himself in respect to this Bill. As it stands we will take as fraudulent act by the Minister to realise the schemes perpetrated by his criminal group. In the meantime, we admonish the state authorities to think of what to do should hundreds of thousands of cattle and people starve, that is if they allow the state to do so alive.  

In conclusion, we emphasise that Malwal Agorbar belongs to us, we will pay for it at any cost. Gwalla Community will do whatever it takes to protect and uphold its community rights till justice is restored and the scourge of corruption is eradicated. It is noble to stand on the side of justice even if we sojourn on the cause of justice alone. 

Gwalla Community Diaspora

1-Jonglei Anyang Abiei-USA

2-Jok Bol Achok-USA

3-Majur Bol Achok-USA

4-Agor Alier Agor-USA

5-Machar Alier Agor-Australia

6-Riak Achiek Aguek-USA

7-Aguto Matiop Aguto-USA

8-Deng Anyiwei Ajuong-Australia

9-Mawut Kuol Ajuong-USA

10-Gai Mading Ajuong-Australia

11-Panther Alier Akuei-USA

12-Akuei Deng Akuei-USA

13-Joh Achop Alier-USA

14-Pach Bior Alier-USA

15-Panther Bior Alier-Australia

16-Garang Deng Alier-Australia

17-Pach Maluk Alier-USA

18-Alier Manyiel Alier-Australia

19-Bol Manyiel Alier-Australia

20-Pach Manyiel Alier-Australia

21-Alier Mawut Alier-Ireland

22-Mabior Mawut Alier-Ireland

23-Alier Thon Alier-USA

24-Deng Thon Alier-USA

25-Mawut Thuma Alier-USA

26-Mayol Gaker Aluel-Australia

27-Anei Nhial Anei-USA

28-Anyang Awai Anyang-USA

29-Ateny Dhal Anyang-Australia

30-Alier Ngong Anyar-USA

31-Awan Aguek Anyieth-USA

32-Alier Mayola Areet-USA

33-Dhieu Thuom Areet-USA

34-Ajuong Aguek Arou-USA

35-Bior Kuer Bior-USA

36-Kuol Thuom Bior-USA

37-Makol Ajang Bol-USA

38-Mayen Alier Bol-Australia

39-Bol Kuei Bol-USA

40-Gai Mach Bol-USA

41-Mangok Mach Bol-USA

42-Ajith Yuot Bol-Australia

43-Madit Alier Bur-USA

44-Thon Majak Deng-USA

45-Bior Longar Dhuka-Australia

46-Mabior Kelei Dut-Australia

47-Dut Majok Dut-USA

48-Garang Kuol Garang-Australia

49-Joh Mabior Garang-USA

50-Aluong Ajak Jila-Australia

51-Ayuen Ajak Jila-Australia

52-Jila Ajak Jila-USA

53-Jok Ajak Jila-Australia

54-Manyok Alier Jok-USA

55-Mayol Pach Jok-Canada

56-Alier Ajak Jongkuch-Canada

57-Deng Ajak Jongkuch -USA

58-Chol Bior Jur-Australia

59-Jur Bior Jur-Australia

60-Jur Deng Jur-Australia

61-Mamer Deng Jur-Australia

62-Gai Thon Jur-Australia

63-Kelei Mabior Kelei-Australia

64-Bol Deng Kok-USA

65- Maker Kuol Koriom-Australia

66- Thon Garang Kuachlek-Australia

67-Chol Abraham Kuchkoon-Australia

68-Gai Abraham Kuchkoon-Yemen

69-Ajok Magok Kueng-Australia

70-Agau Alier Kur-USA

71-Aluong Deng Kur-Australia

72-Mangok Chol Mach-Australia

73-Ajuong Lukuach Mach-Australia

74-Mach Majok Mach-Australia

75-Nhial Thoor Mach-Australia

76-Malueth Nyuon Machel-USA

77-Ajak Akai Machot-USA

78-Adut Adhieu Mading-USA

79-Makol Garang Makol-USA

80-Makol Mach Makol-USA

81-Mayol Aguto Malaak-USA

82-Kuol Mayom Malaak-USA

83-Maluak Mayom Malaak-USA

84-Panther Ajak Mayen -USA

85-Thon Deng Mayol-USA

86-Mayom Pareng Mayom-USA

87-Machar Ateny Nai-USA

88-Alier Mareu Ngang-USA

89-Akol Aguek Ngong-USA

90-Ngong Kur Ngong-Canada

91-Matiop Alier Ngueny-USA

92-Majur Alier Nhial-USA

93-Thon Char Nhial-USA

94-Deng Mach Nhial-Australia

95-Kuol Nhial Nyiel-USA

96-Mayom Majok Nyiel-USA

97-Nhial Majok Nyiel-USA

98-Majok Mach Pach-Australia

99-Alier Mayola Pach-USA

100-Pach Monyroor Pach-USA

101-Bol Riak Pach- USA

102-Pareng Riak Pach-Australia

103-Alier Achuek Paka-USA

104-Alier Mayen Panthum-USA

105-Panther Mabiei Panthum-USA

106-Joh Alier Riak-USA

107-Mawut Ayor Riak-USA

108 -Riak Deng Riak-USA

109-Riak Gai Riak-Australia

110-Agot Garang Riak-USA

111-Joh Garang Riak-USA

112-Majur Garang Riak-USA

113-Akoi Majak Riak- USA

114-Abol Pach Riak- USA

115-Riak Piok Riak- Canada

116-Kuol Riem Riak- Australia

117-Anyieth Mabiei Yuol-Australia 

Petition Committee Contacts

  1. Mangok Mach Bol; This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
  2. Matiop Alier Ngueny; This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.">This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
  3. Deng Ajak Jongkuch; This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
  4. Pach Bior Alier-Madhony; This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
  5. Akol Aguek Ngong; This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.