A group of civil society organizations wants the Liberia Land Authority (LLA) to fast-track a legal process through which rural communities get deeds for their ancestral lands.

The Civil Society Working Group on Land Rights at a recent one-day event in Monrovia criticized the LLA for being slow in resolving boundary disputes. It also slammed LLA for only granting deeds to communities the regulator works with, not the ones the NGOs work with.  

Members of the group include the Sustainable Development Institute (SDI), National Civil Society Council of Liberia, Landesa, Foundation for Community Initiative (FCI), Parley Liberia, and Community Rights Support Facility (CRSF).

The Land Rights Act grants land ownership to rural communities but requires them to complete a process before they get customary deeds. The process includes self-identification, mapping, boundary harmonization, drafting of bylaws, forming a community land development and management committee (CLDMC) and an official survey.

Many communities are stuck at the boundary harmonization stage over disputes ranging from mineral, political, and tribal interests among others, according to the NGOs. LLA records show that out of 150 communities only eight have received their customary land deeds, five years after the law.

“We are trying to push the LLA to intervene in these communities that are stocked on boundary harmonization,” said Nora Boiwer of the SDI. “LLA can decide and find a solution if communities can’t decide.”

The result of the delay in resolving disputes for confirmatory survey retarded developments in the countryside.  Communities’ representatives said they were unable to negotiate any investment deals with potential investors or companies.

“We are asking the Liberia Land Authority to intervene and make sure that the boundary should be harmonized,” said Sam Maloway, the chairperson of the CLDMC of Ziawulu, Lofa County. “If not, some of us may not have our deeds and our efforts will be in vain.”

At the end of the one-day dialogue, the group recommended that NGOs and the LLA work together for customary communities to get their deeds as a way forward.

It also wants civil society and LLA to set a target in resolving outstanding boundary issues and the completion of other issues.

The NGOs also want LLA to begin the surveying of government land in towns and villages and include traditional leaders in future land discussions.

“From the developed strategy here at the dialogue, we hope that NGOs and LLA will get 25 to 50 communities to pass the boundary harmonization and grand deeds in the next seven months,” Nora told The DayLight.

In response, Kulah Jackson, LLA’s commissioner for land planning and use, said the regulator was willing to work with NGOs to ensure that customary communities are formalized and given deeds, but a new strategy needs to be employed.

“Stakeholders from the LLA, MoA (Ministry of Agriculture), Mines and Energy, LISGIS and MIA (Ministry of Internal Affairs) need to sit together and discuss issues of great concerns that border on land,” Jackson suggested.

He encouraged NGOs and community members to be “sincere” in identifying boundaries and resolving boundary disputes.

The dialogue was held under the theme, “Customary Land Dialogue-Identifying Lessons, Finding Solutions and Deepening Efforts to Strengthen Community Land Rights.”

 By Esau J. Farr/thedaylight.org

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