Land Dispute in Ghana: Time to stop the Atrocities and let Justice Prevail

Land dispute in Ghana has claimed many lives due to the abysmal brutality people suffer.We cannot talk about the deadly Coronavirus Pandemic,and neglect Land dispute as an alarming problem jeopardizng lives and causing deaths in our communities , family and chiefly institution, but land disputes may be adjudicated in a variety of institutions: informal arbitrations and family tribunals, chiefs’ courts, quasi-legal state agencies and the formal state courts.Current debates on how to protect the land rights of the majority of customary land holders revolve around the respective merits of customary and non-state regulation said to be accessible, flexible and socially embedded, and state systems, which are said to offer more certainty, impartiality and non-discriminatory codes and procedures. In Ghana, however, customary and state legal codes have been integrated for some time, and the state courts, which are frequently used as first instance adjudicators, apply customary rules. Does this mean that in Ghana the merits of customary law can be combined with the certainty and enforceability of state court dispute settlement? Land disputes and litigations have become rampant, causing troubles within and among families, communities and ethnic groups all over the country.
The problems may be due to greed, ethnic conflict, misunderstanding, mismanagement and lack of education, delays in adjudicating land disputes in court, lack of Customary Lands Secretariats for traditional councils, improper documentation, lack of understanding between tenants and land owners or chiefs.Chieftaincy problems, unemployment, default in rent payment to the Administrator of Stool plays a viral role of land dispute.

Lack of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) mechanisms in our communities compounds the problem.
Land guards
Land disputes arise out of confusion over boundaries, unlawful acquisitions and claims and unqualified successors to stools. Those involved in some of the disputes are siblings, couples, family heads, royals, greedy chiefs or public officials who use their positions to cause disaffection. There is also the thorny issue of land guards.
Land disputes have ruined the lives of many people, with some of them being murdered and assassinated. The victims include men, women and even innocent children. Others resort to spiritual means to eliminate their opponents, culminating in broken homes. Many communities have been set on fire. The disputes further delay infrastructure development, reduce productivity and cause financial loss.
All of us (chiefs, opinion leaders, family heads and public officials) must team up to have lasting solutions to land disputes. The judiciary must also be more effective and efficient in resolving land disputes. The situation where some land litigations persist for about 15 or 20 years must end. Again, the various agencies involved with land administration must adopt Alternative Dispute Resolution mechanisms to deal expeditiously with land disputes.
The Ghana Bar Association can also help by explaining the processes for acquisition of land to the people. The GBA could equally counsel the public to resort to ADR in resolving their differences in land matters.
Chiefs must also do proper consultation before selling or leasing land to tenants, to reduce litigation. Agencies in land administration must also be adequately resourced and funded to perform their responsibilities.
That is why efforts by the Land Administration Project (LAP) to educate the media and Ghanaians on land issues must be supported by all and the effort of the ministry of Chieftaincy and Religious Affairs helping to motivate cases of Land dispute.They cannot fight it all,until individually, we help curb the alarming rate of Land disputes in our communities
Customary Land Secretariats
There is also the need to set up Customary Land Secretariats across the country, and the Administration of Stool Lands must be empowered to carry out that activity.
The Executive and Parliament must help review the mandate of the Administrator of Stool Lands to make land registration easy and efficient to avoid the incidence of fake and improper documentation of land.
There is the need for our political parties not to use partisan interests to encourage land litigation. Such conflicts benefit no one.
There is also the need for family heads and kingmakers to be sincere, faithful and loyal to the people and Stools to reduce litigation.
Youth unemployment
Government must help to improve the economy and reduce youth unemployment to eliminate the land guards.
More importantly, employees of the agencies in land administration must be well-motivated, in terms of salary, allowance and logistics and adequate numbers must be employed to do the job. They must be equally provided in-service training and those with capacity helped to acquire higher academic training and knowledge.
The staff could equally be trained in ADR and the necessary legal framework put in place to enable them serve the needs of our people.
I am convinced that with purposeful determination, commitment, openness, transparency and efficiency and effectiveness in resolution of land disputes, we would help reduce land litigation and the attendant destruction of life and property.
Article by:Belinda Asiedu