“The Government of Liberia has treated all land that is not deeded as public.” So states a new land rights policy that is up on the web for comment and discussion. The policy is the product of a two- year consultative process by the Liberian Land Commission and they are honing in on one of the most troublesome issues in Liberian land law as it currently exists.
As I have noted previously on this site one of the significant problems with land issues in Liberia is precisely this - that any land without a deed belongs to the government - leaving those occupying it via customary tenure without any legitimate claim. The new land rights policy seeks to address this issue in several ways. First, it creates clear definitions for what is government and public land. Second, it recognizes customary land as private land and having all the rights that pertain to private land. This is a huge step forward for securing customary tenure rights and will benefit the rural population tremendously.
This policy is open for public comment and not yet law. When it does become law it will be interesting to see what processes are used to resolve the conflicts between customary land rights and the corporate interests who hold many claims to land that will then overlap with customary land. There is also much left to be done in terms of creating legislation that will support this law, for example, harmonizing law and policy on mortgage and insurance. However, this draft policy is an important first step in providing more secure tenure rights for Liberians.