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CSO Working Group Presents Revised 2018 Land Rights Bill

-Urges Senate To Have It Passed

By R. Joyclyn Wea

The Civil Society Working Group on Land Rights Reform (CSO working group) in Liberia, a group of over 30 Civil Society Organizations dedicated to working for community land rights in Liberia has presented to the general public some of the major consensus reached in the proposed revised 2018 land rights bill which addresses the disparities that the CSOs highlight from the 2017 Land Rights Bill.

The group for the first time in four years met with the Liberian Senate and presented issues and concerns which they had with the 2017 Bill to that august body; to this, the working group collaborated with the Senate through a series of work sessions to address some of the challenges within the 2017 bill.

The group in its revised bill highlights tribal certificate, public land, and protected land amongst other things to be addressed before the passage of the instrument by the Liberian Senate.

Reading the group position statement on Thursday, August 16, 2018 at YWCA in oldest Congo Town, the Communication Officer of Rights Rice, Roselyn Korleh lamented that the current proposed revised bill submitted to the Senate July 11, 2018 if passed into law, will meet the requirements of a truly pro community land rights bill that is in the interest of all Liberians.

Amongst other things, the 2018 bill now says: “The membership of the Community Land Development and Management Committee (CLMDC) shall consist of equal representation of the three stakeholders’ groups; men, women and youth. Except for chiefs of the community who shall be ex-officio members of the CLDMC, the representatives of the three stakeholder groups shall be democratically elected. Article 36: government and management paragraph 6.”

Korleh revealed that it was agreed by the group that Tribal Certificates cannot be transformed into deeds without adequate security and safeguards adding “the 2018 Bill now says that a tribal certificate shall entitle the holder to one hundred percent (100%) of the developed portion of the land while the undeveloped portion of the tribal certificate should be renegotiated between the tribal certificate holders and the community (ies).

She emphasized that protected areas need to be designated in a transparent and participatory way where all land gazette by the forestry development authority (FDA) or any successor as protected areas shall be and remain protected areas within government land; for other land previously designated shall be negotiated between the FDA and the community based on provisions 2 and 3 of article 42 of the land right bill.

The CSO working group therefore urges the Senate and leaders of the house to proceed and pass the land rights bill now. There is now no more justification for the further delay in the passage of the land bill.

furthermore, Korleh stated that the 17 bill also proposed 30 percent of all customary land should be re-classified or expropriated as public land without due process or justification and that the 2017 bill has inconsistencies in the land rights act that function to remove protected lands from their customary landowners noting that the protection of customary community l;and against unfair encroachment of concession was dropped from the 2017 bill by the 43rd national Legislature.

She further explained that among the issues of women land rights, the 2017 bill significantly altered the original formulation of the community land management committee or community land development management committee (CLDMC) while the land rights act of proposed that each stakeholder group on the CLDMC be represented by thirty percent men, thirty percent women, and thirty percent youth.

“The 2017 bill proposed the followings: one representative of each quarter or ward, one representative representing the youth community and one representative representing the women of the community.”

According to Korleh, these provisions and absence of safeguards, as reflected in the 2017 land rights, open the door to large-scale expropriation of customary land for private benefits and public use without a genuine or inclusive consent of the community owners.

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