Good law, but shall we respect it?
Posted Wednesday, May 16 2012 at 07:48
Mr Goodluck Mbaga, a resident of Kijipwa Settlement Scheme in Kikambala, Kilifi, gets emotional when he talks about the land problem at the Coast.
This is a problem that has bedevilled three generations of his family — his grandfather’s, his father’s, and now his. And it seems likely to pass on to his children as well if change does not come soon.
“It is a perennial problem for us, from the colonial days. Close to 50 years after independence, we are still in limbo. I don’t know when we’ll ever enjoy the pride of owning land,” he says.
Mr Mbaga, also an environmental and peace advocate, says Kijipwa residents became squatters through the government’s actions.
He explains: “The land meant for the landless was given to undeserving government officers, thereby subjecting residents to induced poverty.”
Mr Mbaga’s comments refer to the 1,600-acre piece of land that the hundreds of Kijipwa residents were allocated in 1964, only for nine government officials, including the then minister for Lands, to take more than a half of it.
“Our efforts to fight this injustice were frustrated. Now resorts and lodges have been built here, while the residents continue to squat,” he says.
According to Mr Mbaga, such examples abound in the region, with a number of other places having even worse cases.
And this is probably why several people have joined the Mombasa Republican Council, an outfit he says captures the frustration of the people at the Coast. Kijipwa residents are among many other landless Kenyans.
Recently, President Kibaki approved three laws that are expected to bring back sanity to land ownership.
The enactment of the three land laws — the National Land Commission Act, the Lands Act, and the Land Registration Act — may seem to be just part of the constitutional implementation process, but land experts and human rights activist say the ramifications of the laws, if fully implemented, will be enormous and will likely solve the perennial land problems in the country.
For the first time in Kenya’s history, there will be a commission that will manage land with such functions as overseeing alienation of public land, monitoring registration of land, and maintaining an information management system for all land in Kenya.
The new laws, according Mr Ibrahim Mwathane, the chairman of the Land Development and Governance Institute (LDGI) and a land consultant, can solve the problem of land, especially at the Coast, if well implemented.
“The National Land Commission will be required to, among other things, within two years of its coming into force, initiate investigations into present or historical land injustices and make recommendations on appropriate redress,” Mr Mwathane explained.
He added that the law also expects the commission to register all unlisted land in the country within 10 years. “This will eventually ensure that people at the Coast and all over the country have access to registered land,” he said.
Mr Jasper Mrutu, a human rights activist in Taita Taveta County, said the commission would be timely.
“Our people have suffered for long, many living without land and a few living on unregistered land. They have never enjoyed ownership of land. This new law, with the creation of the National Land Commission, will pave the way for them to become land owners,” he said.
With all these potential benefits, some experts have questioned why the formation of the commission has been delayed. Mr Lumumba Odenda, the chairman of the Land Alliance says: