The combined force of the U.S. based Oakland Institute's research and advocacy on African land deals and local, democratic activism in South Sudan has effectively stalled plans for the largest land deal in the area.
Anuradha Mittal, Executive Director of the Oakland Institute, who returned last week from South Sudan, announced a major win for local leaders and senior government officials opposed to the unfair and exploitive land investment deal of the Texas-based Nile Trading & Development, Inc. (NTD).
"This is a rare example of a community viewed by investors as near-squatters and essentially dispensable who are getting their voices heard by the highest officials in government. It is an important democratic action in South Sudan and we are happy to have played a role."
--Anuradha Mittal, Executive Director, Oakland Institute
OI's Brief on the land investment deal of Nile Trading & Development, Inc. (NTD) in South Sudan exposed the largest land deal in the country and made the contract available on the Institute's website. The details of NTD's 49-year lease of 600,000 hectares--nearly 1.5 million acres, with a possibility of almost 1 million acres more--for USD 25,000, include unencumbered rights to exploit all natural resources in the leased land.
Following OI's Brief and the resulting media coverage, the community of Mukaya Payam in Lainya County, Central Equatoria State (CES), was made aware of the deal and mobilized against it. The traditional and senior government leaders including county authorities launched a joint protest in July 2011, rejecting the lease to American investors. (Watch Hon. Robert Isaiah Lomude Moses of the South Sudan Parliament speak on land grabs.)
In early August, a committee comprised of the Payam Parliamentarians in the CES Legislative Assembly, Payam Chiefs, and senior government officials at the state level traveled to Juba to voice their concerns to the state governor and the President of the Republic of South Sudan, H.E Salva Kiir.
Their message: "We the chiefs, elders, religious leaders, and the youth of Mukaya Payam unanimously with strong terms condemn, disavow, or deny the land lease agreement reached on 11 March 2008 between the two parties." (Read the community's complete letter.)
Response of President Kiir to the community: "This issue has to be addressed according to your will. You are the government and you have powers." (Read the full article here: http://www.gurtong.net/ECM/Editorial/tabid/124/ID/5582/Default.aspx)