Activists petition policy makers to protect community land rights in Liberia

Thursday, 31st May 2018

On May 29 2018, 130 people, including 12 traditional chiefs, 20 community members from 6 counties in Liberia tabled a petition to Liberia's House of Senate with  41,000 signatures, asking for policymakers to revise and pass a pro-community land rights bill. Now, we are sharing the petition in solidarity with the civil society in Liberia.

To our honorable lawmakers of the 54thLegislative Assembly,   

We, members of the Liberia Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) Working Group on Land Rights Reform , (hereafter the Working Group), a group of 28 CSOs working on land reform in Liberia; working along with the National Civil Society Council of Liberia (NCSCL), the Women Land Rights Task Force (WLRTF), communities across Liberia and in the diaspora, and friends from across Africa and around the world are here to present a collection of petitions urging you, our astute lawmakers, to pass a Pro-Community Land Rights Bill. 

The Working Group has collected over Seventy Thousand signatures and Resolutionssupporting the passage of a Pro-Community Land Rights Bill: in all, over Forty Thousand Liberians,including a resolution from 45 chiefs from across the country have signed petitions supporting the passage of a Pro-Community Land Rights Bill. 

In addition, our call is supported by an international petition of over 30,000 people from more than 25 countries spanning Africa, America, Asia, Latin America and Europeshowing their support and solidarity for Liberian communities and the civil society organizations.  

Given that nearly three million Liberians live in rural areas and depend heavily on the land, it is imperative that Liberia recognize and protect these citizens’ customary land rights. 

As President Weahbeautifully stated in his inauguration address on the 24thof January 2018: “Together, we owe our citizens clarity on fundamental issues such as the land beneath their feet, freedom of speech, and how national resources and responsibilities are going to shift from this capital to the counties.”

Ourdistinguished lawmakers, considering that the majority of Liberians live in rural areas and rely on the land for livelihood security, we urge you all to move expeditiously and in a manner that protects the principles of land tenure security for all Liberians, especially the majority of rural Liberians who contribute significantly to agriculture and food security, but who at present do not have right to ownership or title of the land on which they live and work.

We also call on the President of Liberia to use his good offices and influence in urging the Legislature to be guided by good conscience, equity and justicein supporting a pro-poor Bill, protecting community land rights.The interests of the people must prevail.

Furthermore, we like to inform the general public, the government,  and the donor community that the longer it takes to pass the LRA, and the longer CSOs and communities are excluded from participating in the lawmaking process, the more communities are left vulnerable to land tenure insecurity, including large scale land transactions and potentially unlawful land grabs by a few group of national elites.

We as a country must continue to align our interest with democratic principles, a pro-poor agenda, and acknowledge that community land rights are a universal norm and no longer an exception.

About the Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) Working Group on Land Rights Reform in Liberia

The Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) Working Group on Land Rights Reform in Liberia forms part of a group of 28 CSOs working on land reform in Liberia; working along with the National Civil Society Council of Liberia (NCSCL), Women Land Rights Task Force (WLRTF) and communities across Liberia.  The civil society Working Group has been playing a meaningful role in the land reform process in Liberia since 2014. Over the years, the Working Group has worked with the Senate and House Committees through various legislative public hearings, providing constructive criticism for a greater protection of the land rights of rural communities and vulnerable and marginalised citizens. Since 2014, this group has provided technical support to the then Land Commission and current Land Authority, participating in policy forums and stakeholder working groups.