Monrovia – A group of Liberian women under the banner ‘Women for Land Rights in Liberia’ – a conglomerate of women from diverse social background – on Thursday April 19, petitioned the legislature through the office of Vice President Jewel Howard Taylor to prevail on the Senate to pass the 2014 version of the draft Land Rights Bill into law.
Report by Henry Karmo, [email protected]
The women insist the version of the Bill passed by the House of Representatives in August of 2017 would undermine the land rights of ordinary Liberians, especially rural communities that depend on ancestry land to grow food and generate income for livelihood.
“Without communities having access to their land, it will be difficult for the government to achieve its Pro-poor Agenda. We the women of Liberia would like to draw the attention of policy makers to five areas in the current law passed by the House of Representatives that are not in the interest of Liberians,” the petition reads.
The women in their petition received by Senator George Tengbeh of Lofa County, chair of the Senate Committee on Claims and Petition, was based on five cardinal areas.
The focus includes; Tribal Certificates, 30% of the Public land, Protect the rights of communities to informed Consent, Protected and proposed protected area declared as government land, and Women Land rights.
On the issues of tribal certificates, the petition said, the Bill recognizes tribal certificates and other property as passed by the House of Representatives without taking into account measures that would protect communities’ rights to their land.
This recognition of tribal certificates will open the door to large-scale land grab by the Private individuals and companies, they said.
Speaking to the issue of 30% of public land, the women claim the Bill calling for the 30% of customary Land will automatically leave communities ownership and go to government to be used for Public land without due process of financial payment to the communities that own the land.
“This is likely to violate the constitution. The current draft Bills does not define the role of communities in negotiating concessions on their land and does not define sharing rights of communities in the event where they are denied enjoyment to their customary land rights.
“The current Bill needs to include a provision that protects the rights of communities to free, prior, and informed consent (FPIC) to all concessions and investment on their land,” the petition stated.
The current draft of the Land Rights Bill contains provisions that function to remove protected lands, both designated and proposed, from customary land owners.
But the women say the changes create confusion about the status of the protected areas and amount to forceful taking of customary land without due process and measure to safe guard the rights of communities.
In the women’s view, the current draft Land Bill does not adequately address the rights of women to access, own and transfer land.
“We are of the view that if the current draft land rights bill is passed into law in its current form and shape, it will lead to a law that will not protect the interest of families in the rural parts of Liberia that depend on the land for survival.
“This will undermine peace, national reconciliation, and create more poverty among community members that depend on the land for income.
“On behalf of the women of Liberia, we call on you to use your influence to consult with members of the Senate and House of Representatives and Civil Society Organizations to see the need to pass a “Pro-poor” Land Rights Bill that will protect the customary Land Rights and interests of the greater portion of our population that lives on the land as a means of livelihood,” states the petition.