The Conceptual Framework of the Darfur Land Commission (3-3)
The Darfur Land Commission was established in accordance with the provision of the Darfur Peace Agreement for realization of balanced development requirements and sustaining peace. These series of articles sheds light on the different aspects of the Commission which is an essential institution for sustainable peace and development in Darfur.
More complications to Darfur land issues could be traced to the early decades of the second half of the 20th century when population mobility on tribal scale started to gain more importance as livelihood strategy, especially from the dry areas of north Darfur to the areas of south and west Darfur. Increased migration initiated by drought and desertification in neighbouring West African countries, particularly Chad, added to the complications of land issue in the region.
The large volume of migrants resulted in increased demands for land and eventually intensification of competition and conflicts over land between the new comers and land owners, and also between herders and farmers. The widespread possession of modern firearms contributed significantly to violence over land and natural resources. The dissolution of the Native Administration System in 1971 and the promulgation of the Unregistered Land Act 1970 and its contestation to hakura customary land rights have added new dimensions to the issue of land in Darfur and the conflict over it. Recognizing the centrality of land issue in the current conflict Darfur Peace Agreement signed in Abuja in May 2006, between the Government of Sudan and the Sudan Liberation Movement/Army had paid special attention to the axis of land, under which Darfur is granted special affirmative actions in the field of management and development of land and natural resources, to be exercised through the mechanism of Darfur Land Commission, as one of the components of the Regional Transitional Authority, which was established under the presidential decree No. 22/2007 for the enforcement and application of the content of article (20) of the agreement, in coordination with the relevant federal state and local institutions to the land use and natural resources development.
In this respect it should be noted that the signing of the Agreement does not mean the end of the conflicts over land and natural resources is also important to note that it will be irrelevant to talk about sustainable peace for Darfur unless the issue of land and land conflicts are seriously addressed through the full and active participation of all Darfur people who are the real and direct stakeholders to any peace process. In this regard, Darfur customs and traditions with their proved historical viability in ensuring the collective rights of Darfur communities to land and resources while maintaining the amicable and peaceful coexistence that characterized the recorded and verbal history of Darfur should be given the consideration they deserve in any future land reform process in Darfur.
Vast areas of Darfur lands have been lost due to the severe environmental degradation and desertification. Nobody knows exactly how much land has been swallowed by desertification and land degradation. Nevertheless the established fact is that millions of feddans in Darfur particularly in north Darfur had suffered waves of severe droughts since the Sahelian drought of the late 1960s that reached its peak in the early 1980s and culminated the worst famine disaster in Darfur during the 20th century. As a result of drought and famine hundreds of human lives were lost and hundreds of thousands of Darfur people especially in north Darfur were forced to leave their villages as displaced in Southern Darfur and around towns while others took the long trek to Khartoum and agricultural areas in central and eastern Sudan. According to Sammani (1992) around 200,000 of Zaghawa people from north Darfur were forced to leave their areas in northern Darfur to other places in the country in search sustenance and life-support opportunities. Family disintegration, homelessness, collapse of rural economy and traditional livelihood systems, acute poverty and acceleration of land degradation and desertification are documented impacts of the 1980s drought and famine. Unfortunately even after two decades or more, the majority of people did not recover from the impacts of the tragedy.
The repercussions of the 1980s drought and famine tragedy on Darfur as a whole were disastrous and are still felt today, these include;
Spread and institutionalization of violent ways of livelihoods (Robbery and banditry).
Increased population mobility towards the richer places in South and West Darfur resulting in severe competition over land and political leadership.
Progressive contestation to land rights and tenure systems.
Disintegration of Darfur social fabric and collapse of the historically established peaceful coexistence among tribal groups.
Loss of vast tracts of once productive lands to desertification
Spread of appalling poverty conditions.
Reinforced feelings of neglect and marginalization by the central government in Khartoum
Desertification and land degradation and the consequential increase population mobility and expansion in cultivable land have been associated with apparent transformation in the historical relationship between the pastoral and agricultural sectors, form complementarities and symbiotic relation to competition and violence.
The problem of desertification and land degradation in Darfur is mediated by critical environmental governance failures. This is manifested in the weak institutional frameworks for environment management, absence of long term plans for drought and environment degradation management and the adherence to top-down approaches that neglect the economic, political and social aspects of the problem while focusing on technical solutions that will never work.
By Alula Berhe Kidani, 09/05/2012