Addis Ababa, 12 November 2014 (ECA) – African Parliamentarians from the Pan-African Parliament (PAP), regional legislative Assemblies, and National Assemblies play a critical role in the development, implementation, and monitoring of appropriate legal and legislative frameworks that would enable African countries to fully benefit from their land resources.
This was one of the main conclusions of a discussion focused on “The role of parliaments in strengthening land governance,” that took place on the second day of the Conference on Land Policy in Africa. The session, facilitated by Ms Joan Kagwanja, Chief of the Land Policy Initiative, brought together four parliamentarians: Abdoulie K. Jawla (Gambia), Bernadeta Mushashu (Tanzania), Patrick Mayombe (DRC), and Priscah Mupfumira (Zimbabwe).
The discussion emphasized countries’ experiences and challenges in dealing with land governance issues, especially as they relate to large scale land based investments (LSLBI), poor access to land by women, and historical injustices. It was noted that unless these challenges are properly addressed, African countries cannot realize their economic transformation in which land has a vital role to play.
Tanzanian parliamentarian, Hon. Mushashu highlighted the need for transparency, negotiating skills, and accountability so that communities can reap tangible advantages from land acquisitions at the local level. “Land is the only true value that our poor Africans possess,” she stated.
In the same vein, Hon. Jawla noted, parliamentarians should advance a sincere dialogue with their constituencies and countries’ leadership, in view of a much-needed alignment of customary and statutory laws related to land. He further emphasized the requirement for continental decisions and guidelines to be harmonized with national laws.
The domestication of regional and continental commitments in specific countries was highlighted as a priority by Hon. Mayombe as well, together with the need for scientists, researchers, and parliamentarians to work in close partnership. This would allow for National Assemblies to draft and pass laws that are better anchored in solid information and data, so that they provide more viable solutions to key land issues.
Hon. Mupfumira portrayed the challenges that her native Zimbabwe faced in articulating land reforms against the backdrop of historical injustices and legacies attributed to colonial rule. She noted that, in view of new Constitution passed by the country, land reforms can support the return of Zimbabwe to its “role of being the bread basket of Southern Africa.” Hon. Mupfumira stressed, “the land is the economy, and the economy is land,” echoing the conviction that good land governance is essential to economic transformation.
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