By: Justin Ambago Ramba
November 9, 2012 (SSNA) -- Land grabbing is rife in the new Republic of South Sudan and more so in its capital and seat of government – the town of Juba. And before we get into the story of this highly learned medical doctor who became a central person in the latest scandal of grabbing land from the premises of the Juba Day Secondary School, it would be better to display some other examples.
In conformity with this widespread phenomenon of land grabbing known locally as “Nyakama” in Juba, a lawyer involved in a case of land grabbing went missing for some days in Juba. And according to the South Sudan Law Society which gave an interview to the media, said that:
"Before Mr. Bulabek Ring was kidnapped, he was working on a legal suit of an alleged house grabbing in Malakia area against an Army General.”
“The Union said before Mr. Ring’s disappearance he was intimidated through a phone call directing him to withdraw from the case but he refused to comply”. (Gurtong- JUBA, 26 October 2012)
The above is just one example of where people higher up in the government are abusing office, encouraging lawlessness, kidnapping lawyers and exercising a Mafia like life style with total impunity in a country where Human Rights Abuse is glorified. If even lawyers are not safe to defend the rights of the poor and the weak, so what type of a society are we in?
Moving to the showdown between the Juba Day Secondary School students and the Police Officers – dubbed as “The Juba Day Crisis”, I suggest that you read this extract as a prelude to the discussion that follows as it summarizes the background and underlying factors to the crisis at hand:
“In the immediate AFTERMATH of this crisis an investigation was carried by a high level CES government panel. The panel found out that on a map of the 1980's (at the establishment of the Juba Day Secondary School) the school premises extended right to the banks of Khor Bou. But later, the CES Ministry of Planning and Physical Infrastructure manipulated the map and through the abuse of office / political power, the then Minister vetoed the decision / advise of his Ministry's Town Planning Board decision and issued the piece of land (about half of Juba Day Secondary School land) to a private investor who happened to come from the same Payam with him as a private land for building a private hospital.”(Extract from centralequatoriavision @yahoogroups.co. Friday, November 2, 2012)
As a medical doctor myself, I regret to learn that a fellow medical doctor was in fact in the center of this crisis as he tried to acquire land that is clearly a school compound regardless of all his good intentions. Hospitals are good, public or private; however they shouldn’t come at the expense of equally strategic institutions like schools.
As Juba Day School premises became open for grabs, it wasn’t only the medical doctor who has a taste for that piece of land. Sharing him on the assault on what is a school property is yet another self-styled Prophet / Bishop Abraham Chol's of the New Cush Church.
The presence of this squatter church on the school property and in close proximity to the classrooms has disrupted the learning environment for the students. Students and teachers alike felt intimidated by the worshipers who resort to an outrageously loud preaching style and gospel music, which on many occasions have amounted to frank sound pollution.
With this seemingly unstoppable daily distraction from this squatter church, the rightful occupants of the compound none other but the students chronically suffer lack of concentration in their learning activities. This too is another disturbing component of the existing land grabbing in the Juba Day Secondary School.
Without any prejudice the church’s presence on the school ground is equally an important part of the crisis that needs to be urgently addressed before it also become an occasion for civil unrest as the self-styled Prophet / Bishop Chol and his congregation have vowed to fight back should the school administration or the students try to forcefully evict them.
Yet to the best of my knowledge these particular issues were already presented to the Central Equatoria State (CES) Parliament this year where it was resolved that the piece of land and indeed any public land should be retrieved by the Ministry of Planning & Physical Infrastructure and be put back for their initial intended rightful use.
Then how comes that the CES resolution of this particular case was ignored by the departments concerned is the question! Furthermore one even wonders as to why the medical doctor at the center of this crisis together with his sponsors chose to insist in contesting a piece of land that is known to everybody as being a part of a school premises?
Have we really run out of land to the extent that we have to grab school premises in broad daylight?! The reader and all involved should answer.
Another worrying issue is the fact that land grab in “Juba Day” is not an isolated incident, and it is rightly believed that many similar cases have happened in the past. So why is it that the resolution on the Juba Day School premises and indeed for that matter all the other resolutions on solving land problems have remained unimplemented?
It is either the Minister for Planning & Physical Infrastructure or the State Governor who must solely bear the brunt of this crisis. Is it not their foot dragging on issuing the right directives the main reason why citizens are taking the Law into their own hands? This if anything, it is indeed a gross negligence of duty!
To set the record right, it's worth stressing here that nobody in their right senses will condone the idea that citizens take the Law in their hands. However it does happen when Law enforcement is tempered with in favor of the influential and the powerful.
Students have no right whatsoever to dispense Justices. But if we the so-called elders are not even abiding by the Law and by design choose to be bad role models, how then do we expect our young generations to learn how to respect the Law?
The second part to the “Juba Day Crisis” is the ordeal that involved the police officers who came to restore order in the school. It is regrettable that a fully independent nation like the republic of South Sudan is still lacking the basic skills of containing demonstrations and mob unrest. It seems that even there are no personnel or a department in the Police Services to deal with civil unrest – I mean a Civil Defense Service.
Walking into a school compound with guns loaded with live bullets is a violation of human rights. And worse still firing live bullets on unarmed civilian population, leave alone when they are school children is even a worse violation.
Below is a report of an eyewitness. It is worth reading:
“From observations of bullet holes in the pre-fabricated walls of the office block where students and teachers took cover, the gunfire was directed to the students with the aim to kill”.
“The gunfire angered the students to react with stone throwing at the Police but the Police pursued the students and teachers to their hiding places by breaking into two rooms and shooting into them”.
“The shooting resulted in two injuries; one girl student of Senior one was shot through both knees when she was inside with one teacher who was shot through his thigh”.
The above eyewitness statement sheds light on the magnitude of the ordeal suffered by the family of the Juba Day Secondary School – “Teachers and Students”. So now where does the government both at the State level as well as the national level takes us from here is the question of the hour.
Our politicians seem to have been completely misled into believing that they can in the name of the so-called private investment, have a free hand to tamper with the land regardless of whether it is a designated land for a particular purpose or not, a private property or not, a community land or not. This is crazy! But remember that none of us is missing to see the underlining motives, which is nothing but greed and corruption!
Land grabbers are criminals even if they claim to have got the land through the Land Department, because what often takes place in such deals are in fact illegal, as dirty money often change hands in the deal. As such there are no justifications when it comes to land grabbing. Church or hospital, you can't build them on school property!
The Juba Day School premises must remain intact and a property of the school which can only be put into use by the ministry of education and for the good of the students and the school.
My advice to my fellow colleague the medical doctor at the center of this crisis is for him to look for another indisputable piece of land for his private hospital or better still he can purchase one if he so wishes to. However the bottom line is that he should better keep away from our schools. Our children need those schools.
It is needless here to emphasize that a medical doctor of your caliber is expected to know better that good education is not only attending classes, for it extends to en campus other physical activities and extra curricula activities which need enough space. However I understand very well that you too are a victim of the oyee system where corruption and smearing is rumpant. They (the SPLM CES Mafia must have pulled you into this mess)
As for our law enforcers, I have this to say: “you don’t only need to step up your roles in maintaining a lawful society but you also need to know the limitations to the degree of force to be used”. Heavy handed-ness in Law enforce is itself a punishable crime if we were to be in a civilized society!
Where on earth can you just walk into a school carrying guns with live munitions and shoot indiscriminately at unarmed school children and their teachers and get away with it? Is that possible in the Republic of South Sudan? The answer is yes, but for God’s sake this culture of impunity must end!
Some my argue that that there were no fatalities in this ‘Juba Day Incidence’, however judging by the way the victims sustained the injuries, it could as well have led to loss of lives. After all it was a shooting from a close range!
This case must be thoroughly investigated and anyone found on the wrong side must face legal actions. No doubt it is a case of the public against the state.
State official’s right up from the State’s Governor to the Ministers involved, the Directors and the Survey Department officials must answer questions. Irresponsible people should no longer be allowed to run our affairs anymore.