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Land and General Disputes

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Problems and Disputes Among the Population

Local disputes are a normal and common occurrence in Liberia. However, such disputes have the potential to evolve into violent conflicts. We raised a series of questions to examine the most common sources of disputes and their implications. Nationally, about a third of respondents had experienced some kind of dispute either during or after the war, and about one in four (23%) reported specifically having experienced a land dispute over that period. Disputes since the end of the war were most frequent in Greater Monrovia (32%) and Grand Gedeh (32%). Land issues were a major source of dispute among the population. Since the end of the war, 16% of the population experienced some sort of land dispute, and other non-land related disputes over the same period were reported by 10% of the population.

Land Disputes

Land disputes were the leading cause of disputes reported by the population. As mentioned above, 23% of respondents mentioned a land dispute during or after the conflict. A series of questions were asked to assess land access and the potential for conflict over land. Over two-thirds of respondents reported having access to land (69%), and 93% of those said the land had clear boundaries. Half were owners of their land (49 %), but other tenure systems were common, including borrowing the land from family or neighbors (15%), accessing land granted by the town chief (14%), and rental (9%). Some respondents simply indicated they had inherited the land (9%). One-third of those with access to land indicated that they had only a verbal agreement or nothing as means to prove their rights to the land they use. Two-thirds had some written record, including a land deed (41%), tribal certificate (16%) or lease agreement (8%). A lack of documentation (verbal agreement or no proof) was most frequent in the southeastern counties of Rivercess (76%) and Sinoe (68%). Having a tangible proof of ownership did not seem to guarantee fewer disputes. In fact, 29% of those who had a document to prove ownership or access to land experienced land disputes during or after the war, compared to 21% of those who had no or only oral proofs of ownership/access.

Table 15: Land Disputes

Table 15 - Land Disputes

Figure 12: Experience of Disputes

 Experience of Disputes

The study explored various types of land disputes. The most commonly reported conflicts were over land being taken over by someone else (land-grabbing), and, most frequently, the grabbing of a house plot. A total of 14% of the population reported the land of their house plot was grabbed during the war, and 9% reported a similar experience after the war. In comparison, farm land-grabbing was less frequent both during the war (4%) and after (3%). For a majority of respondents, land disputes (land palavas) were much more frequent after the war compared to before the war: 69% said there were more land palavas compared to 16% who said fewer.

Figure 13: Current Frequency of Land Disputes Compared to Before the War

 Current Frequency of Land Disputes Compared to Before the War

Since the end of the war, 7% of the population reported having a dispute over their land boundaries, while 5% reported other land-related disputes, including disputes over inheritance (2%) and rental fees (1%). Land disputes after the wars were most frequent in Grand Gedeh (33%) and Rural Montserrado (30%).

Of the 16% that experienced a land dispute since the end of the war, the dispute was most frequently with someone from another tribe (6%), from the same tribe (5%), or with other family members (3%). Violence was sometimes present. Five percent of the respondents reported disputes that included threats of violence, and 3% reported actual violence. In other words, nearly one in five respondents who experienced a post-war land dispute suffered violence as a result of the dispute.

Other disputes

Among the 10% of the population who reported experiencing another kind of dispute since the end of the war, the most common kinds of disputes were domestic violence (3%), conflicts over loan repayments (2%), and noise and disturbances (2%), among others. Nearly half of these disputes (47%) involved a threat of violence, and 34% were violent. Non-land disputes were most frequent in Greater Monrovia (15%) and Rural Montserrado (15%), as well as Grand Cape Mount (13%).

Table 16: Non-Land Disputes and Domestic Violence

Table 16 - Non-Land Disputes and Domestic Violence

Domestic Violence

Interviewers asked additional questions about domestic violence, one of the most common forms of non-land-related disputes. Although just 3% reported domestic violence among the disputes they experienced, a much larger proportion reported experiencing domestic violence when asked directly about the issue. This may be because most did not consider domestic violence a dispute.

Overall, 26% of the surveyed adult Liberians reported having experienced a severe beating by their spouse or partner, with an incidence of 17% over the one-year period prior to the survey. When considering women only, severe beatings by a spouse or partner were reported by 36% of the women, including 24% who reported that the event took place in the year prior to the survey. Among men, as many as 16% reported violent beatings, and 10% reported the event occurred in the last year. The most common reasons for the beating were cheating (32%) and coming home late (22%).