ILC Africa Calls For People-Centered Land Rights In Liberia
Monrovia – In a statement issued by ILC Africa’s Chair on April 17 2018, the platform calls for President George Weah and the Senate to review and pass a land act that respects community land rights.
NAIROBI-Kenya, April 17 2018, the International Land Coalition (ILC) Africa, joins the Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) Working Group on Land Rights Reform in Liberia today to demand for a people-centered land bill.
The platform urges President George Weah and the Senate to revise the Land Rights Act so that it ensures tenure security for millions of vulnerable citizens.
In recent years, Liberia has witnessed several episodes of land-related unrests. Mr Shadrack Omondi, Chair of the ILC Africa Platform, blames weak land tenure for driving conflicts.
“Land disputes mostly arise from weak land and natural resource tenure, which causes power imbalances and pushes different groups to their limits,” says Mr Omondi.
Protect community land rights to attract investments
Mr Omondi believes Liberia’s new leadership has a chance to use the Land Rights Act to support development. All it needs to do is to review the bill to ensure community land rights are respected and sign it into law.
“The President and the Senate can use this opportunity to build a strong, peaceful, just and equitable Liberia-and ensure that it can attract investments for development that is sustainable,” states Mr Omondi.
The 2017 bill fails to protect community land rights
In 2014, former President of Liberia, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf presented the Land Rights Act (LRA) and in 2017, the Lower House of Parliament of Liberia voted the bill. However, with some newly added and amended provisions, Mr Omondi fears the bill could undermine community land rights and create future tensions.
So his platform is recommending for the Senate to review the bill and ensure the new improved version passed into law unites Liberians and makes the country proud.
The LRA, Liberia’s land reform bill, was expected to promote “sustained and inclusive growth”, by recognising “customary land ownership” as Liberia’s Land Authority mentioned.
But the new bill voted in August 2017 did not keep to that promise. Instead, it offers a weak protection for community lands, women, Indigenous Peoples, and youth.
Mr Levi Jarteh, land rights defender and Town Chief of Lower Kulu Clan, in Tarjuowon, Sinoe County wants change for his community. “The land is my living,” Mr Jarteh says. Just like Mr Jarteh, 85 per cent of Liberians live in rural areas and depend on land for shelter and as a source of food and wealth. Insecure tenure, therefore, makes their lives uncertain.
The change the Senate and the President could bring
There are two more steps for the LRA to officially enter into Liberia’s legal system. The Senate has to endorse it and the President has to sign it into law. Mr Omondi is optimistic about the future and calls for Liberian policymakers to form a multi-stakeholder platform that includes all relevant actors to review the bill.
“By including all stakeholders, and especially communities, in finalising the land bill, Liberia can move to truly people-centered land governance and improve the lives of its population,” he argues.
“Without doubt, we know this can be done. As members of ILC Africa, we offer our solidarity and support to Liberia to achieve this noble goal”.
About ILC Africa
ILC Africa is a platform of 79 CSOs across 24 countries in the continent working together to secure people centered land governance.
About the Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) Working Group on Land Rights Reform in Liberia
The Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) Working Group on Land Rights Reform in Liberia forms part of a group of 28 CSOs working on land reform in Liberia; working along with the National Civil Society Council of Liberia (NCSCL), Women Land Rights Task Force (WLRTF) and communities across Liberia. The civil society Working Group has been playing a meaningful role in the land reform process in Liberia since 2014. Over the years, the Working Group has worked with the Senate and House Committees through various legislative public hearings, providing constructive criticism for a greater protection of the land rights of rural communities and vulnerable and marginalised citizens. Since 2014, this group has provided technical support to the then Land Commission and current Land Authority, participating in policy forums and stakeholder working groups.