Dwarzon, Margibi County/Liberia/06/19/2023: Ahead of the impending October 10, 2023, Presidential and Legislative Elections, the Sustainable Development Institute (SDI) calls on all political parties and aspirants to clearly share their vision as to how they will address the ‘massive corruption’ in the land and natural resource sectors of the country.
As one of Liberia’s leading NGOs, the SDI wants to see how political parties will ensure community land rights are upheld, Liberia’s forests are protected and preserved, and sustainable alternative livelihoods are provided to forest communities nationwide.
In a statement signed by the organization’s Executive Director, Mr. Wilfred Gray-Johnson, the rights-based organization said as Liberia draws closer to the much-anticipated October 10, 2023, Presidential and Legislative Elections, political parties, collaborations, coalitions, and independent candidates need to put forward their platforms or manifestos clearly specifying how they will address the massive corruption in the land and natural resource sectors of the country.
The organization recounted that in recent past elections, political parties’ platforms hardly focused or considered how they will address the pervasive land conflicts that cut across Liberia.
According to the SDI, political parties did not articulate how they will address the issues of poor management and exploitation of the country’s natural resources including forests, timbers, and other important extractives.
“In 2008, the Government of Liberia in its Poverty Reduction Strategy (PRS) rightfully attributed the cause of conflict and polarization to two broad factors: 1) mismanagement of Liberia’s resources, and 2) exclusion and marginalization of the vast majority of the population, especially rural communities, from the benefits of the resources of the country by political elites. At the same time, between the period 2006 – 2018 about 16 conflict mapping exercises and hotspots assessment reports flagged the issue of land and poor management and exploitation of the country’s natural resources as not only major conflict factors that led Liberia to 14 years of brutal civil conflict, but hitherto [until today], they still remain major sources and driver of future conflicts,” the statement added.
The SDI recognizes that although the country has made some progress by putting in place legislations and policies regarding land and natural resource sectors including the National Forestry Reform Law of 2006, Community Rights Law with Respect to Forest Lands of 2009, and the Land Rights Act of 2018. Yet, the very issues that caused conflicts in the country still exist. Until today, land grabbing by political elites, mismanagement of the nation’s wealth and natural resources, and depletion of Liberia’s forests continue unabated. In addition, only a few people of high social class enjoy the help of the country while the vast majority of Liberians remain in abject poverty. No wonder why the question “Is Liberia’s natural resources a curse, or a blessing?”
It further said, “Perhaps one of the main reasons for the government paying little or no attention, or not showing political will to address these issues, is that political parties, usually considered government in waiting, do not clearly articulate in their platforms their commitments and plans to address these issues so as to lift Liberians out of poverty.”