African MPs want transparency in land deals

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The New Times (Rwanda)| 30 April 2013

African MPs want transparency in land deals

James Karuhanga

Kigali: African lawmakers have resolved to strengthen existing laws at the national and regional level to prevent fraudulent land deals on the continent. This was one of the resolutions announced on Saturday at the end of a two-day workshop organised by the Pan-African Parliament (PAP) and the East African Legislative Assembly (EALA), in Kigali. Held under the theme: "Making Agricultural Investment Work for Africa: A Parliamentarian's response to the land rush," the meeting was also attended by MPs from the Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas), and the Central African Economic and Monetary Community.

"We commit to work towards transparency of all investment contracts and treaties, whether by local or foreign investors, by making them available to the public in a timely manner," MP Isabelle Ndahayo (Burundi), the Chairperson of the EALA's Committee on Agriculture, Tourism and Natural Resources, said.

"We commit to mobilise public opinion and governments on the question of land grabs and raise awareness among citizens through public campaigns and special parliamentary debates."

They vowed to adopt new laws that are appropriate and adapted to all aspects of investment in agricultural land, water and related natural resources; and advocate at national and international level, with a view to mobilising resources to promote agriculture in Africa. In addition, participants committed to advocate for the creation of a network of parliamentarians on governance of investment and land issues, under the auspices of the PAP, EALA, Ecowas and other continental parliamentary bodies.

According to the resolutions, a joint Committee of Parliamentarians and Development Partners will be formed to monitor the implementation of investment policies and laws on lands.

The meeting called upon the AU and other African regional institutions and organisations to ensure that investments in agriculture work for African peoples.

The legislators also called on governments to improve transparency in the process of acquiring and distributing arable land. They also challenged member states of the African Union, signatories of the 2003 Maputo Declaration on agriculture and food security in Africa, and the AU Declaration on Land Issues and Challenges in Africa, to honour their commitments.

The Maputo Declaration requires countries to allocate at least 10 per cent of national budgetary resources to agriculture and rural development policy implementation within five years.

In addition, the MPs want AU members to develop and implement land use master plan to guide investments; and implement legislation on direct foreign and local investments relating to land, water and other natural resources. This, they said, would guarantee the benefits of the investment to the African peoples and for sustainable development.

Ndahayo said there is need for legally binding and enforceable obligation for the investor to contribute to the local economy and the well-being of society. This would lead to poverty reduction, improvement of food security, protection of the environment, and increase in employment, she added.

Original source: The New Times
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