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Cablegate: Land Tensions Threaten Southern Stability

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OO RUEHWEB

DE RUEHKH #0383/01 0751144
ZNR UUUUU ZZH(CCY ADX6EDFA5 MSI1321-623)
O 151144Z MAR 08
FM AMEMBASSY KHARTOUM
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 0206
INFO RUCNIAD/IGAD COLLECTIVE
RHMFISS/CJTF HOA

UNCLAS KHARTOUM 000383

SIPDIS

C O R R E C T E D C O P Y (GARBLED TEXT)
DEPT FOR AF/SPG, A/S FRAZER, SE WILLIAMSON
ADDIS ABABA FOR USAU
DEPT PLS PASS USAID FOR AFR/SUDAN

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL KPKO SOCI AU UNSC SU
SUBJECT: LAND TENSIONS THREATEN SOUTHERN STABILITY

1. (SBU) Summary: Conflict in Sudan has been fueled in many cases by
competition over land and other natural resources. Currently, there
are no consistent land policies and laws to govern how land is to be
allocated and used in Southern Sudan. The control of land is linked
to historical "injustices" in southern Sudan, and is an extremely
contentious issue. Officials and private individuals report being
anxious about how land tenure and property rights will be (or are
not being) addressed. This is already leading to some violence and
deaths, and more importantly, it is fostering broad-based tensions
within and among ethnic groups in the South. Land and property
rights issues have the potential for triggering South-South violence
and/or breakaway groups or states within the South. The absence of a
coherent land tenure framework is a social time bomb that threatens
the future stability of the region, and presents opportunities for
destabilization by those who wish to undermine the Comprehensive
Peace Agreement (CPA). End Summary

2. (SBU) Land is intrinsically connected to political, social and
cultural identity in Southern Sudan and conflict over this issue is
symptomatic of the greater regional struggle for control over the
South. The issue is more contentious in areas where there are
numerous overlapping competing land claims. Institutional
weaknesses with regard to governmental control over land access and
rights are endemic. The lack of clear lines of political authority
and decision-making on land issues has resulted in either parallel
structures without clear mandates and/or vacuums of authority in
defining property rights and administering land.

3. (SBU) In geographical areas containing several ethnic groups
competing for resources, specifically with both Pastoralist-Farmer
tensions and high IDP/Refugee returns, or where there are competing
claims over natural resources, such as with minerals and oil, or
finally in areas of urban expansion, claims become more contentious.
The greater the diversity of identity that exists in a geographic
area, the more pressing the land issue becomes and the more volatile
the political situation. This dynamic is particularly evident in
and around Juba and in other urban areas. Local Bari leaders and
youth in Juba, for example, have said that they are developing a
"hatred" for the GOSS as a result of government mismanagement of
this issue (some Bari reported killed a black goat to "curse" the
new SPLA Interim HQ which is built on disputed land outside Juba).

4. (SBU) While there are some honest brokers, there are many who
benefit from the current political vacuum by grabbing land and
controlling natural resource distribution. This occurs as a result
of a lack of transparency, rule of law, and no clear policy. The
beneficiaries of the status quo are naturally reticent to support a
process which might lead to the development of a comprehensive land
law, policy and functioning institutions.

5. (SBU) For many in government at the GOSS and State level, there
is general recognition that this issue threatens stability and needs
to be addressed. At the same time, many appear hesitant to take it
on because of the extreme political sensitivity of the issue,
resulting in political gridlock and inaction. This is politically
dangerous.

6. (SBU) The bodies charged with dealing with land issues in
Southern Sudan have so far proven themselves ineffective. In
particular, the Southern Sudan Land Commission (SSLC) has been a
disappointment. The commission has four members who are political
appointees from different ethnic groups. There is no technical
staff or capacity to develop policy, effectively propose laws, or
engage in discussion with state and county governments, civil
society or the private sector. Further, there also appears to be, at
least at the SSLC, no political will under the current leadership to
tackle the hard issues of land usage and distribution. With the
help of a short-term land lawyer, the Commission did draft a land
law in September of 2007 that it sent to the Ministry of Legal
Affairs and Constitutional Development in October 2007. Key
contacts at the Ministry said that the draft land law will be
rejected and sent back to the Commission for revision. In the
Ministry's view, the draft is "legally flawed" and lacks a written
policy framework within which the law can operate. Such a policy,
in the view of the Ministry, must be drafted first. To date, the
law is still sitting with the Ministry and the SSLC has not been
officially informed of its status. This state of affairs suggests
the extent of political gridlock at high political levels.

7. (SBU) There is also a problem of overlapping lines of
institutional authority to control land access, rights and
administration, including between the GOSS, state governments,
county governments and traditional authorities. The constitution
gives state governments the authority to administer land; however,
it does not stipulate processes or procedures for this delegation of
authority. In the case of Central Equatorial State there is a clash
over authority between the SSLC, GOSS, state governments and
traditional authorities over land administration. For example, in
Lake State, the state government has moved ahead on its own to
develop laws to administer urban land. Nevertheless, the state
government is waiting for guidance from the SSLC on land policy, law
and administrative procedures.

8. (SBU) Meanwhile, the CPA and the Constitution have created
expectations and confusion on land tenure and property rights.
People expect that the GOSS (and particularly the Land Commission)
will provide land tenure guidance, and the State Land Office will
administer land. At the same time the language in the constitution
that "land belongs to the people," has empowered some traditional
authorities to assert their power in areas that are highly prized,
such as in urban areas where investment might take place. This
empowerment of traditional authorities may be coming at the expense
of stronger "private" rights for families and clans rather than
"communities."

THE WAY FORWARD

9. (SBU) The State Department and USAID will look to provide
intellectual leadership and technical assistance to Southern Sudan
to address land tenure and property rights challenges and
opportunities. This assistance will be divided into two phases:
short-term immediate needs and longer-term institutional capacity
building.

10. (SBU) The first step in our plan is to promote a political
dialogue at the level of the Office of the President to bring
together key high level government officials. The purpose of the
dialogue is to provide an opportunity for the USG to emphasize its
commitment to Southern Sudan, encourage the GOSS to move forward on
this key issue, and to offer technical support to ultimately develop
a comprehensive land tenure and property rights policy.

11. (SBU) USAID will next seek to provide legal technical expertise
to develop a comprehensive land tenure/property rights policy. The
plan is to initiate this through a high-level "Land Policy
Development Forum." The Forum will be funded and technically
supported by USAID in coordination with other donors. The goal is
for this to become an initiative of the President of the GOSS and
supported by senior GOSS ministers, governors, traditional leaders,
select civil society representatives and East African
representatives.

12. (SBU) Comment: Reducing South-South tensions will help
reinforce Southern Unity, minimizing the opportunity for external
intervention working to divide the South. Addressing land tenure
issues in 2008 will also help to reduce overall tensions prior to
elections in 2009. It is important to recall that South Sudan's last
peace accord - the 1972 Addis Ababa Agreement - collapsed in part
because of tensions between Equatorians and cattle herding Nilotic
tribes like the Dinka. Recent events in Kenya can be traced to land
tenure security and community identities in the Rift Valley, and now
is the time to be creating policies that avoid similar conflict from
erupting in Southern Sudan.

13. (SBU) Comment Continued: Further, in order to create an enabling
environment for economic recovery and development, it is essential
that land tenure security be established. Economic recovery is one
of the key peace dividends that Southern Sudanese are counting on
out of the peace process, but without clear land tenure policies, it
will be seriously hampered. Moreover with clear property rights and
rules governing land tenure and administration, South Sudan will be
equipped to benefit from internal and external investment, the
development of land and asset markets, and greater capital flows.

FERNANDEZ

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