Nuba Land Rights

The Nuba Mountains area is situated in the geographical centre of the Sudan and covers an area of 30,000 square miles. The area is inhabited by populations estimated to be over two millions and 61% of these inhabitants are indigenous Nuba. The other groups who share the land with the Nuba are mixture of Arab tribes, namely Hawazma, Meissyeria), Fellata (from west Africa) and Jellaba (merchants from northern Sudan). The land is fertile and rich in minerals and other resources, including oil which was discovered in the western part. For centuries the Nuba have shared this land with the nomadic Arab Baggara tribes, who migrated to the area with their cattle. Although in the past the Nuba have been subjected to raids and slavery last century by the Arabs. But they managed to resolve the disputes and the two communities were able to live together side by side in relative peace, mutual trust and understanding.

However, over the last two decades the relations between the two communities deteriorated badly due to the government policy which favoured the Baggara tribes and set them against the Nuba. As a result jihad war was declared in 1992 and tens of thousands of Nuba were killed and many thousands were forcibly driven out of their land and their lands were either taken by the Arabs and Jellaba or confiscated by the government. Some of the land were converted into mechanized farming for quick cash.

Similar policies of land grabbing in the Nuba Mountains was done in mid-Seventies and this was encouraged by international donors support, such as the World Bank, who supported the creation of the government ‘mechanised farming co-operation’ established in Habila and known as "Habila Agricultural Scheme". This project expanded rapidly, as millions of hectors of land in Habila and surrounding villages were confiscated and the landlords became landless and working as labours in their own lands. The present government is following similar policy of land sequestration. It has already taken most of agricultural fertile lands in the Lagawa, Khor Shalogo and Delami area, using the principle introduced by the British colonial power in 1898 for rural land tenure, that unregistered land is assumed to be owned by the government unless the contrary is proven. But the land confiscated were owned by the indigenous people who acquired their land through customary laws.

Since Independence, the state has remained ready to confiscate land, while wealthy and powerful individuals, usually with connection to government, have also made use of the colonial and post-colonial land laws to acquire large areas of land. Successive legislation on land, up to the 1990 amendment to the Civil Transactions Act, has not changed this fundamental aspect of Sudanese land law, but on the contrary strengthened the privileges of the state and those with access to it, at the expense of rural people. In fact, Land issue has been one of the main factors contributing to the brutal civil war of the Sudan, which caused about one and a half million lives and four million people were made displaced.

The problem now will the Nuba people who fled the area during the civil war return to their home after peace agreement find their land not been taken by some people or confiscated by the government?

Kadugli, the principal town in the Nuba Mountains whose most of its citizens fled to the northern or forcibly relocated, is now inhabited by people coming mainly from northern Kordofan (mainly from Umruwaba). They are buying land of people who have been displaced to the northern Sudan, including eastern Sudan. These people will return to find their homes and land occupied by other people. There is fear that didpute over land is going to be major problem for the government of Southern Kordofan to resolve and justice is needed in this case. .

One of the big problem is that land ownership documentations in the Nuba Mountains has not been practicised through the years, and some cases do not exist. Consequently, people returning back to their land will find it difficult and sometimes impossible to prove their ownership. This is going to create problem and will create many grievances and great injustice if the Land Commission in Southern Kordofan does not get the advise from the Meeks , chiefs and Nazers who know the people and the land.

For this reason we are demanding that tribal land should be considered as owned by local people and that tribal leaders together with elders in the community should be responsible for identifying ownership by the individuals.

When Sudan was under the British rule there were two types of ownership:

1. Communal or tribal ownership, namely land owned by the community at large.

2.Individual ownership and to other titles to land. Individual ownership was achieved either by the normal evolution process whereby communal ownership changed to individual or by grants made by the sovereign (Funj and Fur Sultanates and in the Mahdist state).

It was clear that the system of land tenure in the Nuba Mountains was based on tribal ownership and owned by community at large. The Meeks and Chiefs in this case were responsible for distributing the land and resolving any land dispute in the region. One of the most significant elements in the customary land tenure system is the right of native authorities to allocate land and adjudicate disputes. This means