Sudan Democracy Group highlights land conflicts in Sennar

Parts of Sennar state in southeast Sudan have witnessed an escalation of conflicts over land use and ownership recently, an activist think tank reported.

Parts of Sennar state in southeast Sudan have witnessed an escalation of conflicts over land use and ownership recently, an activist think tank reported.

The areas of El Dali, El Mazmum and Abu Houjar occupy an area of 40,000 square kilometres and are inhabited by 1.6 million people. The conflicts reached a peak during bloody clashes in October and November 2016 in Kokary village, in El Dali and El Mazmum, that caused the death of a civilian and the injury of another by members of the Sudanese military forces.

Sudan Democracy First Group (SDFG) published a report about Land ownership, political corruption and the absence of the rule of law today, clarifying the tensions in the region and rallies by locals. These led to the events in Kokary that claimed the lives of eleven members of the Central Reserve Forces (known in Sudan as Abu Tira) and a herder.

The incidents started when herders and locals attacked a camp of the Abu Tira in October last year, in retaliation to the death of a herder. Locals from the neighbouring villages around Kokary felt ignored by Sudanese authorities who turned a deaf ear to their complications with land use, SDFG said.

During the confrontation, a herder of El Mazmum and eleven members of the central police were killed. The Ministry of Interior subsequently issued a statement in which it ignored the number of casualties and transferred all Abu Tira from Kokary to Sinja, the capital of Sennar. Furthermore, a buffer zone of 3,000 feddan was instituted between the large mechanised agricultural farms and the nomads.

Decree for nomads

Not much later, the Governor of Sennar promised the community to implement a cabinet decision, decree 209 (2013), when he visited the region in an attempt to calm down the situation. Decree 209 addresses the historical conflict between nomads, small farmers and owners of large mechanised agricultural projects.

The decree was put in place after South Sudan seceded in 2011 and allows for Sudanese nomads and their cattle to continue their annual migration (which covers the southern territory as well) and seamlessly move their large number of livestock to areas such as Sennar and Blue Nile.

However, the local governments and the Abu Tira force have so far not allowed the herders passage and let the cattle graze in these areas, despite appeals to the local authorities by nomadic herders.

'Ever since the Central Reserve Forces arrived in the area, it engaged in provocative behaviour towards the nomads and small farmers in the area including beatings, looting of belongings and stealing of cattle,' according to SDFG.

The think tank said that the bloody events in Kokary cannot be viewed and addressed in isolation from the historical conflict over land ownership, use and allocation in the region, and addressed the historical roots of the land conflict. Its full report can be read here (and in Arabic).


'Laws legalised land grabbing in Sudan': Democracy First Group (30 October 2016)