Conflict seems to be an integral part of life, most especially, in recent times. According to Margenthan 1973, “At every point in human life, conflict seems to pervade relationships.”
Land as a natural and fixed asset makes it vulnerable in terms of proportionate distribution of it to the public as a whole. It is with no doubt that certain forms of displeasure in interests between and among communities, clans, families and individuals prevail.
Causes of Land Conflicts in Ghana
The causes of land conflict can be appropriately discussed under the following headings; administrative, legal or juridical and customary.
On a first note, the weak Ghanaian land markets are to blame for some of the land disputes in the country. The land markets are not well equipped to provide easy and quick access to information regarding land related variables such as, land availability, plot prices, parcel externalities and conditions, among others. In other words, the lack of land information systems has been an influencing factor to land conflicts in Ghana. The lack of land information systems results in multiple sales of parcels and encroachments which are the nation’s threatening factors.
Again, practices such as land speculation, land grabbing and other forms of land hoarding techniques in the land market tend to cause a short supply of land to the numerous demands in the market. These practices threaten the security of tenure hence subsequent conflicts arise.
Administratively, there has been an insufficient implementation of regulations by land sector institutions. Regulations which are meant to monitor and regulate the actions of land users are left idle. Users, therefore, take advantage of this and transact deals within their own whims and caprices which may sometimes trample upon the interest of other users hence causing land conflicts.
The lack of communication, cooperation and coordination among land sector institutions is yet another course for land conflicts to arise. These institutions are supposed to work hand in hand for a common good. However, other institutions work without the knowledge of colleague institutions which results in technical errors. These errors tend to render transactions inaccurate and misleading which obviously are prone to causing land disputes. Lack of responsibility and insufficient control of state lands are some other administrative causes of land conflict.
On a legal basis, we can talk of legislative loopholes and the legal pluralisms regulating land markets. There are a myriad of laws in place to control land transactions but these are, however, sometimes contradictory. Due to this, different judgements are passed depending on which particular law was used. This has the effect of causing land disputes.
In addition to the above, the poor or disadvantaged in society usually have a limited or no access to law enforcement. On the other hand, some of these formal laws are not disseminated appropriately to reach all groups of people.
The Ghanaian customary practices cannot also be overlooked. Some of these practices are technically inaccurate and contemporarily outmoded. The use of stones and waterways and other landmarks to determine the boundaries of land parcels is obviously one of our recent odds. These landmarks may at some periods disappear due to one reason or another and are possible grounds to spark up confusion as to where one boundary ends and begins.
Most customary land laws are in the oral form. This makes the laws very flexible for individuals to alter the language and interpretation of such laws to their advantage which can create a serious conflict between and among people.
Proposed Solutions to Land Conflicts in Ghana
Having identified the causes of land conflicts, it is pertinent to find mitigating solutions so as to curtail or avoid the future occurrence of conflicts.
Firstly, it requires every individual to be on the lookout for any suspicion of a possible land conflict. This is a necessary solution in that, it is able to detect the early stage of the conflict which is always devoid of evil feelings. It is easy to have a quick negotiation between the parties involved in an amicable solution.
Again, communities, families and individuals need thorough sensitization on land-related issues so as to avoid land conflicts. Land policies must be explained and interpreted plainly and if the need be, in the local dialect to ensure a deep understanding of every bit of the policies. That is, processes involved in land sales, purchase, or ownership should be well explained to the understanding of every individual.
The establishment of land information systems is another possible solution to land conflicts. With land information systems in place, multiple sales of lands and encroachments will be addressed which are the main causes of land disputes recently.
Some of the numerous legislations should be repealed and the few left re-examined and strengthened for more rigidity and clearer interpretation. Laws, especially, contradicting ones should be harmonised to gear towards a common goal for fair judicial judgements.
There must be proper land surveying practices for boundary accuracy. The use of GPS and other modern instruments, for instance, should come to play for better surveying and boundary demarcations.
Institutional irresponsibility should not be tolerated. There must be proper supervision to ensure that everyone is at task and also on the right course. Institutions are called to work collaboratively for a common good.
By Adombire Samson