Bor — A bulldozer destroyed shops in Bor that the Jonglei state government claims were illegally inhabited, on Friday.
The destruction has left thousands of South Sudanese Pounds (SSP) worth of goods without shelter during the rainy season; many of the residents called on the government to wait for the onset of the dry season.
"They [government officials] don't want us to be here in Bor," said a resident whose shop was destroyed.
Some residents cried upon seeing their livelihoods in jeopardy. The prices of construction materials rose dramatically in recent months with a piece of iron costing 55 SSP (US$12). Erecting shops like the ones being demolished costs up to 10,000 SSP, (US$2,262) owners claim.
Some new shops that were constructed in June and not yet stocked by owners where also destroyed.
The area affected starts from the junction near Bor civil hospital to Bor power station and east and west of Marol main markets.
On Thursday heavily armed police dispersed crowds and closed roads after residents staged a protest denouncing the demolition of unregistered shops and homes on commercial and residential plots.
An order was issued last week for the demolition of three neighbourhoods; Navisha, Marol 2 and Panjak on the grounds that plots in those are areas are allotted to new owners. The residents demand compensation, resettlements and a postponement of the order issued by Bor county commissioner Maker Lual until dry season. The authorities refuse, saying the residents have missed many deadlines.
The places will be inhabited by "people carrying their allotment letters since 2007," Lual said.
The residents cite South Sudan's 2009 Land Act, article 34, which secured the right to housing and compensation in case of eviction. Lual said there are no "resources, no money, we have to be frank."
On the streets, heavily armed police carrying PKM machine guns, AK47 and sticks beat residents crossing a boundary marked on the ground using white ash and arrested at least three men. A woman whose husband was beaten and arrested told reporters he was innocent.
"The beat him because he refused to sit down," she said, requesting anonymity.
Residents carry banners in Bor July 27, 2012 (ST)
"We have been in this area since 2006 and the government refused to allot us a permanent place and today, they want us to leave. Is that the government voted for in the star [SPLM 2010 election symbol]," another woman sitting under of a tall table said. Her home falls within the areas that will be demolished.
"We should not suffer on our soil. Not here. This land killed everybody including my father," said Samuel Maker, owner of a small shop.
Owner of Bamat Hotel, whose monthly profit is 12,000 SSP (US$2,700) accused the government of being biased. "I applied for a commercial plot in 2008 but no one to-date. I took these papers [business licenses] from them [the government]," said Bior Deng, the owner of Bamat Hotel.
Commanding officers refused to speak to journalists. Ajang John, the head of Bor town police, referred all questions on the events to the commissioner of Bor county. When Ajang was persuaded to speak on record, his bodyguard assaulted the reporters, asking them to come with permission from "higher authorities."
As the sun set in Bor, there seems to there be unannounced curfew in the town, as police dictate roads that should be used. But bulldozers are yet to arrive and possible work on the iron sheet buildings. Residents fear that a forced demolition might turn violent.
One of the protesters, Yom Philip Kuur, told Sudan Tribune, "We got information that homes will be demolished. We want to know why the government is demolishing our homes but we never got a response to our demands."
She said they wrote letters, which they sent to their representatives to meet the government officials but did not receive responses.
"If the government wants to organise cities, it should think about her citizens too. I don't want to stay at home only to be informed by bulldozers before the government tells me where I will resettle," she added.
The commissioner of Bor, who is responsible for demolition exercises said the demolition should go on as plan.
In an interview with Sudan Tribune on Monday, at his office after meeting with the protesters' representative, Lual said the they were given enough time to prepare a leave the areas in question.
"Unfortunately, people are resisting, they don't want to move from those places" said Lual.