By Alvin Worzi
Yacoub El Hillo, Deputy Special Representative of UN Secretary-General (DSRSG) and UN Coordination, says there is an urgent need for Liberia to restructure its land tenure system because the reform will help in the consolidation of peace and continuation of stability and prosperity in Liberia.
Mr. Hillo spoke yesterday at the kickoff of a 2-day national multi-stakeholder meeting at the Monrovia City Hall, under the theme “Improving Citizen’s Engagement in Concessions Management.”
He said in 2016, the Liberia Peace Building Office in Monrovia conducted a nationwide research and gathered that land tenure and concessions issues were the number one driver of conflict in the country.
Mr. Hillo noted that the governing of land issues and concessions’ rights will help create equity, access to prosperity, and economic development for Liberians.
At this juncture, he said “Liberia is now preparing to take another step to show the world of its maturity as a nation, which will bring in new administration early next year. That’s why the timing of this meeting is very cardinal to Liberia.”
He described the Land Rights Bill as a cornerstone in the consolidation of peace in Liberia, adding that “It’s very important for the landmark law to be considered and hopefully passed by the current lawmakers.
“This will instill confidence in the people that the government is actually taken seriously and the immediate steps must be taken to harmonize peace in Liberia.”
Ciatta Bishop, who read a speech on behalf of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, said the land is important to Liberia’s stability, development, and economy.
“Our concessions touch all aspects of peace and security within the various borders.
Concessions are also a vibrant and vital part, including the citizens that bring economic development and continued social cohesion, rights and all of the land sharing issues that citizens have in this country,” Director Bishop said.
She said according to the President, there are provisions within the concessions that did not and were not properly managed and she called on all partners to work together.
“As you may be aware, President Sirleaf said, there were conflicts and uncertainty and other types of issues relating to land ownership within the concessions agreements, which the government has tried and will continue to try to ensure that they are facilitated.”
“This meeting is significant because it brings together the three important partners of each concession, including the government, the people, and the concessionaires. Importantly, our partners recognized the effort the government and the people are making, thereby allowing them to join us in the struggle for peace and social cohesion through land rights,” she said.
She reaffirmed the government’s continued support to its people and to the NBC in terms of monitoring, evaluation and the work that is done by each concession in Liberia.
Dr. Othello Brandy, Chairman of the Liberia Land Authority (LLA) said the bill of the land rights remains fundamental to economic development, national cohesion, peace and economic growth of Liberia.
“The Land Rights Act holds the key to Liberia moving forward in all aspects of development.
The LLA is hopeful that the lawmakers will pass the Act because it provides the citizens the sense of stakeholder and ownership among others in the history of Liberia. It is the first time for a bill to recognize the indigenous to own land and to use land,” he said
He noted that the passage of the Land Rights Act will help in safeguarding concessions across Liberia, adding that “Until we can be assured that our citizens have rights, any of us don’t have rights; even those who own private lands cannot be protected,” he said.
Elizabeth S. Mulbah, a representative of the Governance Commission (GC) said she was delighted to be part of the stakeholder meeting, which will help to mitigate the issue of conflict in concessions areas.
“Tension between communities and concessions are nothing new for the fact that everyone has gathered here today. With this bill, GC believes that many of the land issues will be hastily resolved like it was done in the past,” Mrs. Mulbah said.
She added, “GC is mainly concerned about prevention, because there may be other concessions coming up and hope that they can learn from the mistakes of the past.
Communities understand and want development, but also want fair play by being part of the process. They should not be taken for granted.”