Land grabs in Liberia: The people rise up

le 02/07/2015

The Liberian government’s refusal to recognize and respect rural people’s customary land rights is marginalizing and destabilizing local communities. The state has handed out millions of hectares to investors in recent years. Now emotions are flaring into full-scale conflict.

The recent violence by community members against the Malaysian oil palm company, Golden Veroleum, in the presence of state officials in Butwa, Sinoe County, has once again thrown the spotlight on the violence between communities and concessionaires. One interesting take-away from the incident is that tensions between communities on the one hand and government and concessionaires on the other hand are growing, creating what has the potential to become a ticking time bomb.

Since 2010, serious incidents of community-investor land-related violence necessitating armed state security force’s involvement have erupted in many concession areas. Maryland, Nimba, Cape Mount, Sinoe, Grand Bassa, Margibi, Rivercess, Monsterrado, Bong – ten of the fifteen counties – have all reported violent land related conflicts (destruction of properties worth millions of dollars, allegations of torture by community members against state security forces, false imprisonment and other human rights abuses, and death), between communities, investors and the state. To put it more bluntly: growing tension stemming from large-scale land concessions indicates that violence and community anger may become an increasing consequence of bad faith concession operations in host communities and murky land transactions.

One of the central causes of this community anger and violence is state denial of communities’ and families’ customary land rights (the vast majority of Liberians rely on land held, managed and used according to customary norms and practices for their livelihood.) The state’s failure to protect and defend communities’ customary land rights stems from an age old practice, mixed with an appetite for quick, cheap land and resource rental fees, that the state – and by this I mean those in charge of administering affairs of the state – has an unaccountable control over the country’s resources, including its citizens.

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Source : farmlandgrab