President George Weah has proposed a constitutional amendment that would allow foreigners including whites to own land and obtain Liberian citizenship.
Restrictions on citizenship and property ownership have posed serious impediment to Liberia’s development and progress , he told legislators Monday in the capital Monrovia
He said the threats and conditions that inspired the founding fathers of the country to impose that restriction do not exist at the moment.
“In these circumstances, it is my view that keeping such a clause in our constitution is unnecessary, racist and inappropriate for the place that Liberia occupies today in the comity of Nations,“ he said.
“It also contradicts the definition of Liberia which derived from Latin meaning ‘liberty.’ I believe that we should have nothing to fear from people of any race to become citizens of Liberia.
President Weah said he would revise the Land Rights bill to incorporate foreign ownership of law.
The Land Rights bill as originally proposed wants concession companies and other corporate institutions to directly negotiate with the community on the terms and conditions of the land usage.
It also provides that the community or customary land cannot be sold but should be leased for up to 99 years. This provision is intended to ensure generational ownership of the land with corresponding economic benefit that can reduce or end rural poverty.
“Except for transfer of residential area as provided in section (1) of this Article, Customary Land shall not be sold or otherwise alienated to a private person until after a period of ninety-nine years (99) following the effective date of this Act,” reads Article 49 Section 3 of the bill.
Customary Land under the proposed legislation means the land owned by a community and used or managed in accordance with customary practices and norms, which include but not limited to wetlands, communal forestland and fallow land.
The law also provides that the proof of ownership of any Customary Land shall consist of any competent evidence including oral testimony showing a verifiable longstanding relationship or ties that the community claiming ownership of the particular Customary Land has had to the land, but under no circumstances shall the ownership of a particular piece of Customary Land be denied merely because of a failure to produce documentary evidence of title.
Writes Alex Yomah