Liberia's failure to pass a long-awaited law recognising the rights of rural communities to their ancestral lands could plunge the West African nation back into civil war, a coalition of civil society groups said on Thursday.
The draft Land Rights Act, which would acknowledge customary rights to land, was submitted to Liberia's Senate in September 2014, but activists have criticised a lack of progress since.
If the government does not pass the act before its recess in August, it could be delayed until after next year's elections, leaving the legislation in limbo, said the Civil Society Organisations (CSO) Working Group on Land Rights in Liberia.
More than half of Liberia's 4.3 million people live on land held under customary tenure, which provides traditional rights to land but is not secured or recognised by legal title, said the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).
"Failure to recognise the rights of millions of Liberians to their customary lands jeopardises peace and security, and could fuel a slide back into the conflicts that devastated our country for decades," the 18 civil society groups said in a statement.