The Colombian government’s Institute for Rural Development (Incoder) has announced plans to restore land titles to 3,650 Afro-Colombian families in June.
Approximately 420,000 acres of land will be returned to families across 45 communities near Quibdo, capital of the Choco department, on Colombia’s Pacific coast.
This is the seventh time the date for the formal restitution of these lands has been changed since July 2010, said Luis Alberto Rivera, a lawyer for the peasant rights NGO, Cocomopoca, in an interview with Spanish news agency EFE.
“We are viewing this new date with a [degree] of uncertainty, but we hope that it will actually happen this time,” said Rivera
The lawyer said that, since December 1999, the NGO has requested the collective restoration to these families of the titles for a vast amount of land distributed across these communities.
Rivera said that the lack of collective land titles makes it easier for other people or companies to move into the territory, as it can legally be considered vacant or without an owner.
He cited as an example the awarding of slightly over 120,000 acres of land to the South African multinational gold mining company Anglogold Ashanti by the Colombian government.
In past months, the process of land restitution to Colombians displaced by the internal conflict has been marred by violence. For example, in March, 63,000 acres of land were returned to various Afro-Colombian Choco communities, only to be raided and torched hours later by members of illegal armed groups.