-Disagree with 2017 draft Act
Calls for the passage of the 2014 Land Rights Act (LRA) have intensified, with 28 civil society organizations (CSOs) Working Groups on Land Rights Reform with the National Civil Society Council of Liberia (NCSCL), the Women Land Rights Task Force (WLRTF) and diaspora Liberians calling on the legislature to pass the Act in the interest of poverty-stricken communities.
At the petitioning, held on May 29 in Monrovia, the CSO Working Groups called for the passage of the 2014 Land Rights Bill instead of the 2017 bill, which the group claims, is not in the interest of those communities.
“The Working Group has collected over 75,000 signatures and resolutions supporting the passage of a Pro-Community Land Rights Bill which over 40,000 Liberians, including a resolution which 45 chiefs from the interior have signed supporting the passage of a Pro-Community Land Rights Bill,” Viola Lincoln, who read the petition, said.
In addition, the Group said, “our call is supported by an international petition of over 30,000 people from more than 25 countries spanning Africa, America, Asia, Latin America and Europe showing their support and solidarity for Liberian communities and the CSOs.”
The group said given that nearly three million Liberians live in rural areas and depend heavily on the land, it is imperative that the country recognizes and protects the citizens’ customary land rights.
As President George Weah stated in his inauguration address on January 22, “together, we owe our citizens clarity on fundamental issues such as the land beneath their feet, freedom of speech, and how national resources and responsibilities are going to shift from the capital to the counties,” Madam Lincoln recalled.
“Considering that majority of Liberians live in rural areas and rely on the land for sustainability, we urge you all to move expeditiously, and in a manner that protects the principles of land tenure security for all Liberians, especially the majority of the rural dwellers, who contribute significantly to agriculture and food security, but who at present do not have right to ownership or title of the land,” Madam Lincoln added.
She also called on President Weah to use his good offices and influence to urge the Legislature to be guided by good conscience, equity and justice in supporting a pro-poor Bill protecting community land rights so that the interests of the people can prevail.
“We would like to inform the general public, the government, and the donor community that the longer it takes to pass the LRA, while the CSOs and communities remain excluded from participating in the lawmaking process, the more communities are left vulnerable to land tenure insecurity, including large scale land transactions and potentially unlawful land grabs by a few groups of national elites,” Madam Lincoln warned.
According to her, the country continues to align its interest with democratic principles, a “pro-poor agenda,” and acknowledge that community land rights are a universal norm and no longer an exception.