Sunday, May 26, 2013 02:21
Reform Land Laws...Former Atty. General Stirs Land Debate
Four advocacy groups with the Sustainable Development Institute (SDI) in the lead have created a platform for public dialogue on governance and development with the aim of getting the voices of the public into major reforms that affect the citizenry directly in Liberia.
The platform named the Liberia Governance and Development Forum yesterday and held the second in the series of such dialogues this time discussing the land reform issues, challenges and process to finding suitable solutions and answers to unanswered questions.
The participants drawn from Gbarpolu, Grand Cape Mount, Bong and Grand Bassa Counties were driven into what could be the issues that if not resolved could slip the country back into serious problems. Legal practitioner, Korboi Johnson said the Liberian Constitution states that every Liberian is to own land in Liberia but that is a debate beyond the framers' mind.
He said such debate is what the guarantees are in this law that gives the poor people the will-power to acquire land and proceed amidst abject poverty. Cllr. Johnson said one needs to look closely at the competitive use of the land to begin the debate.
Leading discussion on the topic, “Liberia's Land Reform: an independent perspective on the issues and challenges,” the former Attorney General of Liberia said government needs to begin addressing issues that could lead to meaningful reforms due to the different usage of land in Liberia.
He said the contrast in the Liberian Constitution regarding the ownership of land can be seen in the fact that 75 percent of the population cannot meet up with a daily income for their livelihood therefore land laws need to be reformed.
Some of the areas he considered as major issues that need government's consideration for debate are the aspects of the land law that needs to be reformed; what should be done to those individuals who are illegally holding grants from government; does government have the capacity to address the issue of prolonged tenure; does government have records of all the lands; and can the Act creating the Land Commission be amended to give them some power?
He said it is time that government engage in such debate to find solutions that would ensure peaceful transfer of lands in the country while he outlined the challenges to addressing some of these issues as the lack of finances and government's willingness to development; the will to arm the Land Commission by removing it from being a toothless bull dog or mere policy institution.
Earlier, giving the purpose for the discussion, SDI's Program Officer, James Otto said the forum is held quarterly each year to bring together individuals from rural communities and civil society to ensure that local voices are fashioned into the land reform process that is currently an agenda issue under Vision 2030.
Mr. Otto said the issue of land is everybody's concern because most of the lands are now given out for concessions and important to that discussion is what would happen in terms of Liberians owning land in the next 12 years. The last forum organized by the SDI discussed issues of decentralization.
Meanwhile, co-partners contributing to the process of transformation along with SDI are ActionAid Aid International Liberia, Search for Common Ground and AGENDA.