Academic journal article Journal of Pan African Studies

Pastoral Land Rights and Protracted Conflict in Eastern Sudan

Academic journal article Journal of Pan African Studies

Pastoral Land Rights and Protracted Conflict in Eastern Sudan

Article excerpt

Introduction

Communal rights and access to natural resources have been threatened by inequitable land distribution policies of the past, recent changes in land ownership legislations, and by growing competition over rural land due to the advance of urbanization. Changes in communal land in Sudan date back to the colonial period when particular attention was paid to extract resources for their own interests. In colonial Africa, law was used to dismantle customary land tenure systems based on common property and to expropriate land and other natural resources (Babiker 2008). To fulfill this objective, several acts related to land ownership were introduced in Sudan to weaken the traditional administration, and imposed on leaders affiliated to the colonial power rather than ethnic organization/identification. More power has given to these leaders in order to govern the rural population on behalf of the colonial authorities, in what came to be known as 'indirect rule' (Babiker 2009). According to Miller (2005) the most important change brought by the British in the east was a shift from a fluid hierarchical structure based on kinship ties to a fixed and long-term establishment structure of authority. This has affected the flexibility of the traditional institutions that had been adapted to the nature of pastoral economy over years. This led to the justification (Babiker and Pantuliano 2006) of why a group of people in the east established the Beja Congress in 1958 with the aim of drawing attention to marginalization and to advocate for more administrative and political autonomy. Moreover, the colonial government institutionalized the link between ethnic identity and access to land and education. For example, Khatimiya (a religious party) aligned itself to the victorious British and were rewarded with lands in the Gash and Tokar deltas. This served to further weaken the livelihood of the Hadendawa and deepen their resentment (Young 2007). Regarding education, El Hadary (2007) states that ethnic leaders with colonial support concentrated only on educating their close relatives so as to ensure the continuity of their group, and thus, obtain blind support from their followers.

The successive governments of Sudan have inherited the legacy of the British occupation where the pastoral system has been hindered by unfavorable land policies initiated by the colonial administration. Sudan is not different from other African countries when it comes to the issue of land tenure systems. Besides 'modern' land laws, communal rights are widely applied in rural areas to regulate the access and use of land for securing the livelihood of pastoral communities. This works fairly well if there is no interference from the statutory authorities. However when "development" planning begins or investment projects are proposed, underlying conflicts come to the surface. Thus, large group of pastoral people in Sudan still believe in communal rights and that land is theirs; while the state insists that this system is no longer valid and it becomes part of the historical legacy of the country. Based on this, the Sudanese government usually allocates land on the basis of lease contracts to investors, the rich, and allies without taking into consideration the traditional rights of pastoral groups.

In Gedarif, like elsewhere in Sudan, people with the greatest access to power are also able to control and influence natural resource decisions in their favor (Peet and Watts 1996). Transferring usufruct rights has led to the collapse the whole system of pastoral economy, accelerated resource degradation and increased the rates of conflict. Although not ignoring the role of ethnicity and environmental problems in escalating the tension, the ongoing conflicts in Sudan are political in nature and have to do with land rights. This idea is supported by (Ayoub 2006) who states that Sudan's conflicts have many causes, but at the root of each conflict are questions over the control and distribution of resources. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.