Dear Colleagues and Partners: The Civil Society Working Group on Land Rights Reform in Liberia, endorsed by the national Civil Society Council of Liberia, has been involved in an intense and persistent advocacy work to raise awareness around land reforms in the country, particularly to get the general public to demand the passage of the Land Rights Act (LRA).
As you may recall, in 2014 and 2015, the President of Liberia Madame Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, submitted to the National Legislature drafts of the Land Rights Act (LRA) and Land Authority Act (LAA), respectively… However, after two public hearings, the LRA remains in the Legislature with limited public information on the status of the Land Rights Act. The CSO working group has made several attempts to ascertain, without much success, as to what actions are being taken, including changes made to the draft LRA.
Over the past two years, the CSO Working Group embarked on a rigorous campaign to push for the passage of the 2014 version of the LRA, which protects customary land rights. The group has accordingly held activities to this end with, representation from various civil society organizations and community based groups, including student leaders from various universities, WONGOSOL (Women NGO Secretariat of Liberia), tradition leaders, faith based organizations (i.e. Council of Churches and the Muslim Council of Liberia), all of whom unflinchingly support this campaign.
We are now reaching a larger population of people because we have expanded our advocacy strategies, but there are still challenges. Recently, we released a press statement (please see http://www.frontpageafricaonline.com/index.php/news/1221-liberia-civil-society-demands-changes-in-land-authority-act) highlighting our concerns about the Land Reform processes, the lack of transparency with the LRA enactment process and t troubling aspects of the LAA that have emerged in the new Bill since it passed the Senate. But we are still in need of support to expand our advocacy work outside of Liberia, and more importantly to release our Position Statement (attached), on the LAA and LRA to a larger international audience.
We are asking you, our international colleagues and partners to help us do just this to elevate our concerns about the two documents that are meant to change land tenure-ship for millions of Liberians, to a larger global audience. .
We will be stepping up our campaigns during the coming weeks by holding radio shows throughout the country, working with women leaders, the Christian and Muslim Communities, University Students, rural community leaders, international institutions in Liberia, ECOWAS, the AU and other citizens to raise awareness for the LRA and LAA. This is expected to be a final drive to get the LRA passed and get troubling sections of the LAA reviewed before it passes the house. Elections are coming up soon, and if the LRA is not passed before August when the law makers leave for agricultural break, the chances of it being passed diminishes greatly because once law makers are back from their agriculture break in January 2017, they would be focused on re-election.
Thank you for your time and cooperation, as we look forward to your continued support in our advocacy efforts!
On behalf of CSO Working Group on Land Rights in Liberia
Frances Greaves, National Chairperson, National Civil Society Council of Liberia
James M. Yarsiah, Executive Director, Rights and Rice Foundation (RRF)
Nora Bowier, Coordinator, Sustainable Development Institute (SDI)
Ali Kaba, Coordinator, Community Land Protection Program (SDI)