Monrovia — The Liberia Land Authority (LLA), in collaboration with the United States Agency for International Development's (USAID) Land Governance Support Activity (LGSA) and the Sustainable Development Institute (SDI), recently held separate meetings in Beawu Quarter, Fissebu Community, Zorzor District, and Vavalah Clan, Salayea District in Lofa County.
The two meetings, held on Saturday, March 6, 2020, brought together several community members and a cross section of local authorities. The LLA was represented by a high level senior management delegation, which included the Chairman, Atty J. Adams Monabah; Cllr. Kula L. Jackson, Commissioner for Land Policy and Planning; Hon. Josephus Burgess, Commissioner for Land Administration; and Mr. Stanley N. Toe, Executive Director, while USAID/LGSA was represented by Dr. Yohannes Gebremedhin, Chief of Party (CoP), and SDI's Program Manager, Mr. Ali Kaba.
The purpose of the meeting in Fissebu was to verify the success story of the Community's Land Development and Management Committee (CLDMC), how it successfully went through the steps/ processes required by the Land Rights Act (LRA) and the Liberia Land Authority (LLA) Guidelines for communities to obtain ownership title to their land. The Community went through the steps with support from USAID/LGSA/ SDI/. The meeting also discussed issues that emerged during the process.
The LLA Procedural Guide requires communities to go through the following steps/processes: 1) Community awareness and self-identification; 2) Development of by-laws and establishment of community Legal entity - (CLDMC); 3) Identification of claims (Including Boundary harmonization); 4) Development of land use plan; 5) Confirmatory survey & documentation of land rights; and 6) Registration of land title deed (including official presentation of land documents/Title or Statutory Deed to the community).
It can be recalled, that the Government of Liberia on October 10, 2020 published the Land Rights Act, recognizing customary land rights and granting communities the same legal protection as private landowners. Under the LRA, communities can now develop their own by- laws to govern land matters and acquire deed from the government to exercise full ownership and control over their land.
At the start of the meeting in Fissebu, kola nuts and a white chicken traditional ceremony was conducted by an elder of the community. The presentation as a sign that the hearts of the community members were "pure" towards the visiting delegation and that the items symbolized their frankness and transparency in the discussions of the issues, was made through Commissioner Burgess to the Chairman of the LLA,
Speaking on behalf of the FCLDM, the Chairperson, Madame Kolo Beyan, lauded SDI, the implementing partner of USAID/LGSA for the support provided to the community as it went through the various processes. She also expressed appreciations to members of the LLA and USAID/LGSA delegations for taking time off their busy schedules to be present at the meeting. Following explanation on how the community navigated through the often time-consuming processes to find themselves were they are, she appealed to the Chairman and members of the Board of Commissioners to issue the community a Statutory Deed in order to exercise the full bundle of their land rights as provided in the LRA.
Prior to the remarks of the Chairman of the LLA, each member of the delegation including the Chief of Party (CoP) of LGSA, commended the community for a job well done and pledged their support to ensure that the community is issued the required Statutory Deed.
In his remarks, Chairman Monabah thanked the community for the splendid work in completing the steps/processes and assured community members that once the technical verifications are made by the LLA, the Authority will ensure that the community is issued a Statutory Deed sooner than later. He further noted that once issued the deed, the community will start enjoying the rights associated with land ownership, including the lease of the land which will bring income and other benefits to the community thereby capacitating the community to undertake projects and other schemes for the wellbeing and development the community.
Before departure from Fissebu, the Chairman of the Authority requested the implementing partners to further assist the Community by facilitating the probating and registration of the memorandum of understanding (MoU) between the Fissebu Community and its neighbors as required by the Law.
Immediately after the meeting in Fissebu, the delegation proceeded to Vavalah Clan, Salayea District and held a brief meeting with selected members of the community. As with the case of Fissebu, the meeting was held to listen to community members on progress made towards going through the steps/processes prescribed in the LRA and the LLA Guidelines for communities to ultimately gain legal title (Statutory Deed) to their land.
Following the welcoming protocol, which witnessed, as in the case of Fissebu, with the presentation of kola nuts and a white chicken to the delegation, the spokesperson of the community gave an overview of the community which comprises of five (5) towns, and an historical account of the land issue in the clan, citing in particular, the on-going contentious boundary harmonization issue between Vavalah and Gbarlin Clans, which continues to pose difficulty in completing the legally required steps/processes. She concluded by calling on the Land Authority to swiftly intervene in resolving the boundary issue in order for Vavalah to move ahead in completing the steps, thus paving the way to attaining the statutory deed for their community land.
Speaking on behalf of the delegation, Chairman Monabah thanked the community for the gathering and implored the community to follow the example of Fissebu in accelerating actions to complete the legally required steps that will enable them to enjoy the benefits of land ownership. He acknowledged that the LLA is mindful of the boundary dispute and will exert all efforts working with the communities to have the problem resolved. He further said land tenure security, which is one of the hallmarks of the LRA, is enhanced through land adjudication, registration and issuance of title deeds, noting that the LLA under his leadership will ensure that communities in Liberia, given the availability of resources, will have their customary land surveyed, registered, and title issued.
At the conclusion of the meeting, SDI was requested to facilitate a meeting between the disputants and inform the LLA of the appropriate time for its intervention.