Jonglei State’s Minister of Housing, Land and Public Utility Abraham Mamer Kur (courtesy photo)

SPLM official quits Jonglei land committee amid tensions

Abraham Mamer Kur, the Minister for Lands, Housing, and Public Utilities in South Sudan’s Jonglei State, has decided to step down from a committee established to address land disputes in Bor town. This move has added to the already delicate political situation.

Abraham Mamer Kur, the Minister for Lands, Housing, and Public Utilities in South Sudan’s Jonglei State, has decided to step down from a committee established to address land disputes in Bor town. This move has added to the already delicate political situation.

Jonglei State Governor Denay Jock Chagor and his deputy, Jacob Akech Dengdit, have publicly clashed over the governor’s decision to create a committee to investigate the illegal sale of public lands. This disagreement has heightened tensions in Bor town.

Akech, who leads the SPLM party in the state, withdrew his party membership from the investigation committee, while Governor Chagor is affiliated with the South Sudan United Movement (SSUM), member of the South Sudan Opposition Alliance (SSOA).

On October 19, Governor Chagor tasked a 7-member committee, headed by Roads Minister James Mawich and deputized by Lands Minister Abraham Mamer Kur, to investigate the state Legal Administrator and the former Bor Mayor Samuel Ateny Pech. They are accused of illegally auctioning public lands and misappropriating payments made by companies and individuals. The disputed lands include plots owned by women vegetable vendors, the Zain company ground, and public toilet ground, among others.

Two of the committee members are affiliated with the SPLM, namely Minister Mamer Kur and Nyalele John Chuol.

In a letter addressed to Governor Chagor on Sunday, which was shared with Radio Tamazuj, Lands Minister Mamer explained that he resigned from the investigation committee in response to his party’s demand. He also criticized the appointment of the Roads Minister as the committee’s leader, viewing it as an act of insubordination.

Jacob Akech Dengdit, the Deputy Governor of the state, spoke with Radio Tamazuj on Monday, explaining the SPLM party’s rejection of the investigation committee. He noted that the party’s primary concern was the lack of consultation and accused Governor Chagor of exercising unilateral authority in governing the state.

Dengdit highlighted the need for adherence to the peace agreement and the implementation of the coalition government, which relies on consensus and dialogue. He pointed out, “It’s important for everyone to review our documents, including a letter from the president outlining how the state should operate through consensus and dialogue, as well as the process for appointing the mayor of Bor town and his deputies.”

Wany, a member of the Jonglei State Legislative Assembly and a senior member of Governor Chagor’s SSUM party, shed light on the events in March.

He explained, “Back in March, Bor experienced widespread chaos when women were forcibly evicted from an area where they sold their crops. This incident led to the governor’s decision to remove the town mayor. Since then, the governor has been trying to comprehend the situation. Therefore, he took it upon himself to launch an investigation into Ateny Pech, who is accused of corruption. These corruption allegations prevented Ateny from being sworn in as the Bor commissioner.”

Wany clarified that the investigation committee’s formation wasn’t based on political party lines; rather, the governor aimed to assemble individuals who could assist in finding a resolution to the land issue. He stressed that the governor’s actions were well-intentioned and that rejecting his decision was unreasonable.

He further explained, “It was entirely within the governor’s authority to establish a committee to investigate the former mayor and, if necessary, exonerate him from the charges, should he be found innocent. Governor Chagor was not obligated to seek further consultation.”

Wany emphasized, “Furthermore, this is a coalition government. If one party objects, the others should proceed with their work. The committee is diligently carrying out its responsibilities, with the only hindrance being the intimidation faced by certain SPLM members from the deputy governor.”

Bol Deng Bol, the head of the Jonglei State Civil Society Network, expressed that the governor’s initiative to investigate land issues is overdue. He pointed out a troubling pattern reminiscent of the past when public disagreements between the governor and his deputy could bring everything to a halt. Such disputes often led to community involvement, with both sides deploying security forces, resulting in a challenging and tense situation.

He further lamented, “It’s unfortunate that we find ourselves in a similar situation, particularly when it concerns matters of accountability.”

“As a representative of civil society, we believe that the governor’s decision was the correct course of action, as justice and accountability should not be delayed. It’s imperative to note that women’s groups in the market, who play a pivotal role in supporting their families, have suffered the consequences. Their rightful lands were forcibly taken from them, causing them significant hardship,” he emphasized.