Violated? Liberia’s Land Rights Law and the Worsening Dynamics of Land Grabs

July 2021
Ali Kaba

The Land Rights Law, enacted on 23 August 2018, recognizes the land rights of all Liberians, especially rural communities who have historically been subject to mere user rights on their ancestral lands. So far 120 communities have been helped by civil society organizations to identify their respective customary lands, harmonize borders with neighbours and elect a land management team.
These claims cover at least 1.5 million hectares, or more than ten percent of the country. But none of them have been issued the promised customary title deeds. There are reports that chiefs and elders are offering customary land to national elites without the consent of the community, a violation of the law. Analyses some of the key problems – serious underfunding, over-centralization, unclear role of chiefs and elders. Offers some suggestions, failing which Liberia’s impressive land law could be used as a tool for elite land capture, resulting in a vicious circle of national and international land grabs.