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14.10.2008 Liberia

Land disputes 'threaten Liberia'


Land disputes are a key threat to peace in Liberia, a survey by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission has found.

The survey warns that if the issue is not addressed there is a strong likelihood of a return to violence, says the BBC's Jonathan Paye Layleh.

Counties that saw some of the worst fighting during Liberia's 14-year civil war, which ended in 2003, were branded "conflict-prone".

Government officials say they have taken note of the findings.

The survey by the Liberian Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the European Union was conducted in 75% of Liberia's administrative districts between April and July.

It identified a lack of accountability and transparency, and poor communication between citizens and the government, as other factors that could undermine peace.

'Key issue'

"People talked about how their land had been encroached upon, issues of demarcation, issues of resale of land," said Eddie Mulbah, who worked on the report for the European Commission.

"The whole land issue is one key issue that has to be given serious attention if we have to live in peace and stability," he said.

He added that a land commission planned by the government would not be sufficient.

"A platform needs to be created through which ordinary people are able to discuss issues of land."

Liberia's government has previously expressed concern at an escalation of violent land disputes linked to the civil conflict.

The disputes have been linked to the return of tens of thousands of former refugees, some of whom have found their homes or land illegally taken.

Government spokesman Laurence Bropleh said the survey "enhances what we are trying to do as a government".

Source: BBC