Olive Thiong'o (CCAFS)

photo Olive Thiong'o (CCAFS)

Land issues are at the centre of conflicts and tensions in many parts of Africa, COMESA Assistant Secretary General for Programmes Ambassador Kipyego Cheluget has observed.

Speaking during a meeting with delegates from the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) representing the Land Policy Initiative (LPI) Consortium, Ambassador Cheluget called for equitable access to land particularly for marginalized groups. The LPI Consortium includes the African Union Commission, UNECA and the African Development Bank (AfDB). COMESA is a member of the LPI Steering Committee.

Dr. Cheluget said land issues are linked to peace and security across the continent and are at the core of tensions between ethnic groups in flashpoint areas.

He further observed that while women have traditionally been disadvantaged in terms of ownership, which needs to be addressed, there was also need to protect local communities’ interests from large scale land based investments in Africa.

Senior Private Sector Development Officer Innocent Makwiramiti said land was key for agriculture development and for attracting private sector investment.

Mr. Makwiramiti said COMESA has developed a Private Sector Development Strategy which provides a guiding framework for attracting investment in the region.

And Land Policy Initiative (LPI) Chief Dr. Joan Kagwanja said their mission to COMESA was aimed at building partnership for mainstreaming land in COMESA programmes.

Dr. Kagwanja said LPI is a joint initiative of the African Union Commission (AUC), the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), and the African Development Bank (AfDB) created to develop guiding principles for land policies that foster economic growth and secure livelihoods of African people.

She said the AU Declaration on Land in Africa calls on Regional Economic Communities (RECs) to convene regional platforms to facilitate experience sharing, lessons learnt and dissemination of best practices in land policy formulation, implementation and monitoring.

Dr. Kagwanja who was accompanied by ECA Regional Land Expert and Economic Affairs Officer, Dr. Judy Kariuki, said their visit to COMESA was also intended to identify linkages and entry points for inclusion of land policy in COMESA.

She said although CAADP’s Pillar I on Sustainable Land and Water Management provided an entry point, there was need to build synergies with the CAADP Results Framework, Monitoring and establishing clear linkages with programmes and Communication strategies.

Speaking earlier, COMESA Tripartite Coordinator Mrs. Helen Kenani said COMESA has a number of programmes and initiatives that could provide an entry point for LPI to mainstream land in COMESA.

Mrs. Kenani said these included the Private Sector, CAADP, Climate Change, Alliance for Commodity Trade for Eastern and Southern Africa (ACTESA), Gender, Infrastructure and Legal.

She said the Tripartite Initiative, which aims to address duplication of efforts by the COMESA, East African Community (EAC), and the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) covers 26 member states in addition to the 19 COMESA member states.

Meanwhile, Director of Gender Division in COMESA, Mrs. Beatrice Hamusonde said her Division is doing land audits in COMESA to assess women’s access to land and to provide recommendations for member states to develop policies for equitable distribution of land.