Liberia’s Land Commission begins a three-day National Urban Conference Wednesday in Monrovia to discuss the ever increasing urban land issues in the country.
Cecil Othello Brandy, chairman of the Liberia Land Commission, said the commission hopes the conference will come up with basic guidelines that would help the government develop its urban land policy.
“As a result of the war, many internally displaced persons relocated into new areas and a lot of them moved into urban areas. This has placed enormous pressure on urban facilities, and so increasingly land has become a major issue in Monrovia. We are hoping, as a result of (the conference) to device some basic guidelines that can help us develop an urban land policy,” he said.
Two years ago, a survey by the then Truth and Reconciliation Commission concluded that there was a strong possibility of Liberia returning to violence unless the government took steps to address the land issue.
Brandy concurred with the commission’s findings, but said land reform has always been a top priority for the government of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.
“From the very beginning of her administration, the first thing the president mentioned was the need for land reform. I think in her inaugural address she mentioned that land reform would be on the top of her agenda, and she proceeded to do this,” Brandy said.
He said it took two years of consultation with all stakeholders around the country before finally forming a land commission which President Sirleaf signed into law last year.
“As you rightly said, land poses a major problem, a potential flashpoint , and unless the major issues of land are addressed, we run the risk of major disputes starting. I wouldn’t say a full-blown war, but minor skirmishes might arise. And this conference is another attempt to begin to look at the issues concerning our urban centers,” Brandy said.
The many land problems afflicting Liberia are happening against the backdrop of what some observers called a weak and sometimes corrupt judicial system.
“We feel the need for instituting measures that can enforce the rule of law with regards to land dealings. That is critical, and unless that is done, you are right we won’t be able to solve the problem,” Brandy said.
He said the land commission has already established a dispute resolution task force.
“We are in the process now of involving all of the stakeholders who have, in the absence of a land commission been involved in land disputes. As you know a lot of the actors involved in land dispute resolution are local authorities, traditional leaders. And so we are developing some procedures so that we can begin addressing quickly the huge backlog of disputes,” Brandy said.