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Act Establishing Land Reform Commission Shows Seriousness of Problem

By. Tewroh-Wehtoe Sungbeh

 

“I will not work for government when I go home,” the gentleman proudly told me. “I will buy my land and build my retirement home in Monrovia,” the other fellow said.

Those are exactly the words of Liberians who are contemplating returning home to Liberia one day never to work for government, but dreams of engaging in to business with the hopes of hiring other Liberians in the process. Creating jobs? It’s about time, isn’t it?

They are the new class of Liberians: middle or no class, and hardworking Liberians who surpassed the hopes and dreams of their parents through hard work, and a chance to make a difference.

In fact, many of these Liberians who bought their parcels of land while living overseas are now returning to Liberia in droves to build their dream homes, and be business owners and employers in a nation where the government of the Republic of Liberia is the largest employer in the land.        It is a dream come true for those Liberians who wouldn’t have had the opportunity to buy a piece of land years ago in their own country, let alone build a dream home and own a business that hires other Liberians.

That’s exactly what the “Liberian dream” is all about – buying and building one’s dream (retirement) home and contributing positively to society; or like one Liberian told me recently, “contributing my quota to the development of my country.”

The ‘quota’ the Liberian speaks of is indeed needed if we want to move our country away from “mat to “mattress” as the late former President William R. Tolbert Jr., once said, which is to strive for individual or collective prosperity in a prosperous country that offers endless opportunities for its people – a nation that inspires Liberians to dream of becoming whatever they want to be in life and in the comfort of their own homes.

While it is true that land ownership has become a fad among Liberians in the Diaspora with most Liberians returning home to purchase a parcel or parcels of land to build their retirement homes, the ideal of land ownership in one’s own country is admirable but not without its own share of problem.

The selling and re-selling of another person’s land to multiple persons is a dishonest practice all too common in Liberia often causing conflicts between neighbors, families, and even tribes in a country with abundance of lands but an obvious lack of a coordinated national plan.

While it is true that the criminal act of re-selling a parcel of land, multiple parcels of land to an individual or multiple persons is wrong and has become a nightmare for many families, there are no serious national policies that protects property rights. As it is now, there are no policies that thoroughly examines issues such as private, public and tribal land ownership, genuine registration of land in rural Liberia and the cities, prosecuting criminal land surveyors, eminent domain, the exploitation of natural resources on a private land, and citizen’s right to protest and be justly compensated for their land, are legitimate issues that needs national attention.

The other problem I see with this rush to buy land to build these retirement homes is the obsessive focus on building homes in Monrovia and the surrounding metro Monrovia area, at a time when other areas in the country are being ignored by these Liberians who supposed to know that the entire country, and not only Monrovia should be the focus of their development and real estate plans.

With Monrovia falling apart and becoming a death trap every day because of over crowdedness and the lack services or no service at all, the obvious lack of sanitary and modern sewer facilities, and the lack of a coordinated urban planning and code enforcement policies, creates an urgent need for a new city, which I wrote passionately about in a previous article; are enough reasons for Liberians to also focus their land-buying and home-building efforts to other parts of the country.

With land disputes becoming a national problem, President Sirleaf reportedly added her voice to the debate by first announcing the idea of a land commission with the mandate of setting up guidelines governing the acquisition of land. President Sirleaf later signed into law an Act establishing a Land Commission.

The Land Commission, on the other hand has to identify the original landowners versus the new landowners, must engage in an aggressive advertising and public relations campaign that educates potential land buyers to beware of buying lands from those who will re-sell the same piece of land to multiple parties, must play a balancing act by being respectful and sensitive to the original landowners, and must also be sensitive to the other person claiming ownership to the same piece of land.

With the country just coming out of a senseless civil war, a war over land dispute cannot and should not be tolerated. Every available attempt must be made to halt the escalation of any conflict that derives out of land disputes or any other issue that compromised the safety and security of the Liberian nation and people.

 

Category: Editorial, News Headlines

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