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Revise, Translate Land Laws to Local Languages: Catholic Bishops in Burkina Faso

Members of the Episcopal Conference of Burkina Faso and Niger (CEBN) during the April 14 -16 National Forum on Land Governance and Social Cohesion.

Catholic Bishops in Burkina Faso have called on the government of the West African nation to revise and translate the country’s land laws into native languages and local dialects.

In a statement circulated Monday, April 19, the Bishops say that the revision is necessary as it will help the people of God at the grassroots to understand the law, hence enabling their participation in land management issues.  

In the statement authored by officials of the Episcopal Commission for Justice and Peace of Burkina Faso (CJP-Burkina), the Catholic Bishops “recommend that the Government ensures better involvement of the population at the grassroots level in land management, in particular by revising the texts, translating them into local languages.”

The Catholic Church leaders add that the government of the West African nation should also be involved in “training, information and awareness-raising activities designed to ensure that they (land laws) are understood by the population.”

In the statement issued after their two-day National Forum on Land Governance and Social Cohesion, the Bishops that say their recommendation is informed by “the technicality of the land laws and legal language, the fact that no one is supposed to ignore the law (and) the importance of land resources for the population.”

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Guided by the theme, “The Rule of Law and Land Governance: What Commitments Should the State and Citizens make for a peaceful society?”, the April 14-16 workshop that was spearheaded by the members of the Episcopal Conference of Burkina Faso and Niger (CEBN) in collaboration with Misereor and Caritas France aimed at finding concerted, sustainable and comprehensive solutions to land issues in the West African country.

In the April 16 communiqué, the Catholic Bishops who acknowledge that traditional leaders occupy an important place in the Burkinabé society, including their role in settling land disputes, recommend that “the Government provides traditional chieftainship with a status to preserve their role in peace and social cohesion.”

They also call on traditional leaders who are known to be the guarantors of tradition and customs to “accompany initiatives to improve land governance and preserve peace.”

Further, the Bishops urge faith-based leaders in Burkina Faso “to respect the destination of the land allocated to them.” 

While focusing on the need for land conservation, the members of CEBN call for “better protection of the land against mining and other forms of degradation.”

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“Considering that the restoration of closed mines takes twice as long as the duration of their operation, considering that mining companies often do not respect their commitments to environmental restoration, considering the low profits from mining compared to environmental degradation,” the Bishops urge the government to “ensure better protection of land, in particular by reviewing the terms of reference of mining companies.”

In their message, the Bishops also note that the country has inefficient “or even non-existence of land management tools.”

As a way forward, they recommend that Burkina Faso’s government “establishes an efficient and transparent land administration through the construction of a computerized land register.”

The country’s leadership also needs to introduce "a real land tax system and the effective implementation of the land information system taking into account the strategic interests of the country, harmonizing and making consistent the various texts in the land sector," the Catholic Bishops further recommend.