-Says USAID-LGSA Chief of Party
Dr. Yahannees Gebremedhin, Chief of Party of USAID- funded Land Governance Support Activities (LGSA) on Wednesday said that for Liberians to feel the relevance of the newly created Liberia Land Authority (LLA), the Authority must first seek to address past and present historical injustices associated with land-related issues, including concession agreements, throughout the country.
Though established in 2016 to develop policies and undertake actions that would lead to the implementation of progress to support land governance, Dr. Gebremedhin believes the LLA has done much in that area, particularly with public consensus building, but stressed that “it needs to ratify some of the historical injustices regarding land-related issues.”
The USAID-LGSA boss did not elaborate further on the issues when he spoke at the public awareness on activities of the LLA, but reminded the LLA that it also needs to build consensus on equitable access to land.
However, Atty. Adams Manobah, vice chairman of the LLA claimed that community dwellers have been denied and exploited during the signing of concession agreements by past governments. It was for which the Authority was created to resolve-for locals to be a part of any arrangement for the use of their lands.
Gebremedhin’s assertion comes against the backdrop of the Legislature’s continued inability to reach a consensus to ratify the 2014 bill that is intended to protect communities’ Land Rights. It was submitted to that body by the government of former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.
Friday’s awareness was jointly sponsored by both UNDP (United Nation Development Program) and International Organization for Migration (IOM). It brought together stakeholders from two of the 15 counties, namely Grand Cape Mount and rural Montserrado, and was held at the Administration Building, in Bentol City, outside Monrovia.
Gebremedhin told his audience that although he has stayed in Liberia for a little over six months, he has witnessed that land-related issues have drawn private and public actors’ attention.
He quickly clarified that land-related issues around the world cannot be resolved by using straightforward methods because it comes with a history that sometimes is contentious.
“Issues like criminal conveyance of land is not straightforward, because it involves divergent interest and views,” he noted, adding, “issues relating to land awareness cannot be straightforward and it will not be in Liberia and has not been that way in any country of the world, because it comes with lot of history that sometimes is contentious,” he said.
According to Gebremedhin, LLA has an enormous task ahead, because it should understand that land-related problems cannot be handled in one or ten years.
He also used the occasion to call on development partners, including his institution, to continue seeking the more meaningful involvement of segments of society to sustain the gains and progress made so far by strengthening the LLA capacity and its legal policy.
“LLA should also effectively take advantage of the available opportunities that can be created in the future,” Gebremedhin said.
Atty. Adams Manobah, vice chairman of the LLA recounted how much exploitation locals have experienced as the result of bad concession agreements entered into by past governments on their behalf.
Making specific reference to Sime Darby, the LLA vice chair claimed that the company paid US$6 per tree especially kola tree that was part of the land negotiated by the government.
“They paid you US$6 for your kola tree, only if you were to keep the tree, by then, you would raise over US$25 from the sale of each of its fruit,” Manobah alleged.
“It’s a historical injustice that led to the civil war, this must stop and only the LLA can do that for you, because, we are going to make sure that you form part of any agreement about your land usage for concession purposes,” he said.
The LLA vice chair asked the participants to join the campaign to pressurize their lawmakers for the passage of the Land Rights Act that is before that august body for ratification.
He also enlightened the people about the formation of the LLA, which he said will deal with some of those historical injustices.