Land Rights Law creates opportunities to grant title to those who live on customary lands
Liberia is the only country in sub-Saharan Africa that has never been a European colony. Conflict over land and resources in Liberia is rooted in the emigration of former slaves from North America, known as ‘settlers’, who formed an independent country in 1847. Their descendants failed to recognize the customary rights of Indigenous Peoples in law and allocated immense contracts for natural resource exploitation on their ancestral land. Today, Liberia ranks 177 out of 188 countries on the United Nations’ Human Development Report index. In addition to poverty, Liberians are still recovering from 14-year civil war (1989-2003) that was fuelled by conflict over land. A crucial element of the Accra Peace Agreement was ensuring a more just and equitable process of land reform.
In 2016, a multi-stakeholder Tenure Facility initiative developed and tested a national protocol for community self-identification, anticipating passage of Liberia’s Land Rights Law in 2018. Today, a coalition of civil society organizations, working with the Liberia Land Authority, is scaling up collective, community land rights nationally under the Land Rights Act to enhance peace and security, equitable development, and women’s rights—and protect Liberia’s threatened forests.
Who are the Indigenous Peoples of Liberia?
95% of Liberians are indigenous. They include three main language groups: Mande, Kru and Mel. An estimated 2.5 to 5% of Liberians are Americo-Liberians, descendants of free black immigrants from North America. In addition, there are other west Africans, including Ghanians, Guineans, and Lebanese traders.