Liberia: Legislature Urged to Give Money for Land Disputes Nationwide

A man carries wreath sticks on his head in District No. 2, Grand Bassa County. FrontPage Africa/James Harding Giahyue

PAYNESVILLE – Atty. Adams Manobah, the chairman of the Liberia Land Authority (LLA), has called on the National Legislature to approve US$50,000 to each county for boundary harmonization and dispute resolution for the Land Rights Act to make the impact for which it was created.

“We call on the central government to allocate budgetary support during the next budget recast for boundary harmonization and dispute resolution to promote investment in the agriculture sector,” said Manobah at the opening of an event on last Thursday held by the Multi Actors Platform on Land Governance in Liberia (MAP Liberia) in Paynesville. “We also call on the donor community to provide more to the LLA and our partners to ensure the implementation of the Land Rights Act.”  

Liberia signed the  Land Rights Act into law in 2018. The law fully recognizes customary land and guarantees women’s right to land, among other things. However, implementation of the law has been a challenge. A number of communities are at loggerhead of boundary disputes—a key requirement for customary land title—and others have completed the legal steps but the LLA has yet to conduct confirmatory survey.

Manobah also rued the number of land cases the LLA is resolving and the ones in court. From July 2015 to June 2019, 1,268 cases of multiple sales of land were reported, records of Liberia’s Land Authority (LLA) show. Criminal Court C—which judges such matters—has heard 17 cases so far, according to the court’s records.   

“I will prefer if we have a money or support to have a fast-track court for dispute resolution,” Manobah said. “If that cannot be done, the next one would be authentic support from the dispute resolution mechanism that we have. Because not all land cases need legal handling, rather, technical aspect, which requires travelling to the scene for inquiry and harmonization.”

Manobah praised the efforts of civil society organizations, the private sector  and academia to work with the Government of Liberia to resolve land dispute cases in Liberia. The meeting was the first time all sectors of the group met since its formation.

“We must also ensure that the answer and benefits accruable under the reform process must be sustainable,”Manobah said. “And to achieve this sustainability, from this initial stage, our current tripartite arrangement (GOL/LLA, Partners and Customary Communities) must be well understood, fully funded and operational, with the sense of patriotism, urgency, obligation, responsibility, respect, accountability and transparency.”

Participants at MAP’s workshop. FrontPage Africa/Rights and Rice Foundation

Also speaking at the three-day forum, Haje Paasewe, MAP’s communications and reporting Officer, said that the organization’s vision is a “just, equitable and inclusive” Liberia, where policies and legislative frameworks are adopted and implemented that ensure the responsible governance of land and agricultural investments, contributing to the eradication of poverty, development and peace.

He added that the organization contributes to improving the tenure security and realization of people rights to food, especially women and other marginalized groups.

“If we found collaboration, we expect national multi-stakeholders’ policy dialogue and coordination dynamic is created to support land governance and the implementation of the Land Rights Act’s provisions,” Paasewe told FrontPage Africa in an interview. “Customary land rights of rural Liberians are promoted and protected. Equal access to land for women, youth, and other vulnerable groups are implemented. Agricultural investments conform to basic human rights standards and especially the right to food and improved livelihood for the most vulnerable population.”

Paasewe said that land dispute settlement should be holistic, observing that apart from LLA, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and some international partners, some government institutions are yet to fully join the group.

MAP Liberia is spearheaded by Rights and Rice Foundation (RRF). It was founded in February 2018. In October 2019, the International Land Coalition (ILC) got an approved a  from  a national engagement strategy (NES) in Liberia. The mechanism pursues a common vision to strengthen multi-actor partnership in the promotion of land governance and responsible agricultural investment to support food security in Liberia.