The Liberia Land Authority (LLA), with support from the Joint United Nations PeaceBuilding Support Programme on December 2, launched an historic land survey in Sinje, Grand Cape Mount County.
This historic step paves the way for the issuance of the country’s first-ever legally recognized title deeds to indigenous communities for communally held land in Grand Cape Mount, Maryland, Nimba and Sinoe counties, a statement from the UNDP and LLA says.
According to the statement, this is the first time in the country’s history that the government will formally recognize traditional land ownership.
It is expected to end centennial tensions between communities, and between communities and companies that are being granted mining and farming concessions with little regard, involvement or consultation with local communities.
UNDP, UN-Women, and the World Food Program (WFP), with funding from the United Nations Peacebuilding Fund (PBF), are supporting the survey. It also aims at strengthening the institutional capacities of Liberia’s Land Authority to implement the Land Rights’ Act and the Local Government Act.
At the official launch of the survey, Deputy Internal Affairs Minister Matenokay Tingba stressed that the initiative is part of efforts aimed at sustaining peace, and reconciliation, promoting decentralization and improving the economic stability of communities.
“A titled deed allows investors to deal with legitimate owners of land for development purposes and it is an important commodity that is used as a collateral for bank loans,” Tingba stressed.
The boundary harmonization and confirmatory land survey is a major milestone for consolidating Liberia’s fragile peace and preventing future conflicts centering on land demarcation and ownership.
“This is an opportunity for communities to strengthen peacebuilding, reconciliation and social cohesion processes required to spur sustainable development,” said the Coordinator of the UN Peacebuilding Fund Secretariat, John Dennis.
The issuance of legally probated titled land deeds to communities will in effect displace the informal administration of land often challenged in courts of law. The head of the UNDP governance programme, James Monibah, is optimistic that the confirmatory survey, which he described as a ‘serious public factor’, will help reduce the numerous court cases related to land.
Monibah urged the citizens to support the process and see it as an opportunity to become legitimate owners of the land.
The survey will identify and clarify all existing boundary points between and amongst adjacent communities, including the disputed boundaries in the targeted counties.
Elders in Grand Cape Mount County applauded the government and partners for bringing relief to them. The traditional leaders from Zodua, Zogbo, Manoballah, and Kiazolu towns said the peacebuilding initiative has paved the way for them to resolve a 63-year-old land conflict between Manoballah and Kiazolu towns.
The Chairman of the Liberia Land Authority, J. Adams Manobah, expressed appreciation to the government and its partners for supporting such milestone achievement that will reduce conflicts and bring development.
Manobah also mentioned that the acquisition of title deeds, which is also a human right, would allow the citizens to pay taxes as part of their obligation by the Land Rights Act and the Local Government Act now passed into law.
Conflicts over land were one of the factors that fueled the protracted 14-year civil war in Liberia. Land disputes have degenerated into violent conflicts between people and communities, with the destruction of property, the loss of lives, and displacement.
The launch of the confirmatory survey sets the basis for encouraging other counties to emulate the use of non-violent approaches such as land survey and titling to settle land conflicts.