Monrovia – The Civil Society Organization (CSO) Working Group on land rights reform in Liberia has reawakened its campaign against the Land Rights Bill (LRB) passed by the House of Representatives in the 53rd Legislature in August 2017.
In a press conference over the weekend, the CSOs Working group vowed that the bill “severely and unduly” undermines the land rights of ordinary Liberians and called on President George Manneh to prevail on the Senate not to concur with the lower House’s version.
“We are deeply apprehensive that passage of the Bill in its current form will severely undermine peace, reconciliation, and inclusive economic development."
"The CSO Working Group therefore urgently calls the and members of the communities, including women, youth, elders, religious leaders to participate in the land reform efforts and to ensure a pro-community Bill,” the group urged.
“We also call on the President of Liberia to use his good offices and influence in urging the Liberian Senate to be guided by good conscience, equity and justice in supporting a pro-poor Bill, protecting community land rights. The interest of the people must prevail.”
The group alleged that “outstanding shortfalls in the bill range from contradictions, to omissions of important sub-articles, thus substantially weakening the security of customary land ownership, to insertion of new provisions which directly contradict the spirit of the broader National Land rights Policy and the Constitution of Liberia. “
“By themselves, these anomalies will provide additional seedbed to escalate tensions between private, state and communities on a scale than has been the case in Liberia.”
“Specifically, of key concern we mention as examples the following four provisions in the August 2017 Bill as unacceptable; they would significantly increase corruption, they would significantly undermine customary land rights, they would violate the constitution, they would hurt local economies and increase conflict,” the group charged.
The group, in the statement read by Linda T. Cummings, Representative on the Women Land Rights task force Committee said provisions of the August 2017 Bill would legitimize and validate tribal certificates and other pre-existing property document without safeguards against bad faith transaction, fraud, historical procedural impropriety or accuracy in the original survey.
They argued that these provisions would be a floodgate to widespread corruption and large-scale privatization of customary land without genuine or inclusive consent of the community owners.
“The current bill automatically grants over 50 percent of all undeveloped lands under tribal certificates to holders of tribal certificates, even though the total number of tribal certificates in the country is not known, and the total land area covered by tribal certificates remains unknown and the total land area covered by tribal certificates remains unknown,” they noted.
The group furthered that the bill calls for the unconstitutional expropriation of 30 percent of customary Land without due process or justification.
In addition, the group averred that the bill undermines women land rights when it requires 15 years for qualification residence and the provision of establishments of land governing association; adding that it fails to recognize women rights to acquire land through marriage.
“It is worth reminding the public that women are keenly important to supporting livelihood of their families and local economies, and we need to ensure that women are included in community land governance and that women’s land right.”