Thursday, November 19, 2009

Draft law to set pace for land reforms

Youth with their copies of the harmonised draft constitution at the launch. Photo/PHOEBE OKALL

Youth with their copies of the harmonised draft constitution at the launch. Photo/PHOEBE OKALL 

By LUCAS BARASA

The draft constitution and a policy tabled in Parliament this week give a clear path on management of land, property and natural resources.

The documents provide for the right to own land by all Kenyans.

They outlaw gender discrimination in law and customary practices applied against women in land rights.

Foreigners could also access land for investment for 99 years, which means the 999-year leasehold will become null and void once the new constitution is adopted. Companies incorporated in the country without Kenyan majority could only hold land as non-citizens.

“You cannot masquerade as a foreigner, incorporate a company and own land in Kenya. The draft has, however, secured land for all Kenyans and foreigners for investments,” said the Kenya Land Alliance boss Patrick Lumumba.

He called on Kenyans to support the draft and sessional paper on land.

Mr Lumumba added: “The new structure governing land is more democratic and addresses corruption and other abusive tendencies by the Ministry of Lands.”

Under the new constitution, there will no longer be holding of land by the government but the public, managed by the National Land Commission, which will establish offices countrywide.

Local county council or trust land will fall under the community land board.

If accepted, the harmonised draft, which is to be discussed by Kenyans for 30 days, there will be a mechanism for resolving land disputes, thus minimising ethnic clashes that have dogged the country for years.

Settlement

Apart from formal courts, there will be alternative dispute resolution mechanisms at community level.

The draft proposes that Parliament enacts legislation to prescribe minimum and maximum private land holding acreages.

The House is to further provide for the settlement of the landless and squatters, including the rehabilitation of spontaneous settlements in both urban and rural areas.

A land fund will also be established to enable citizens to own or use land equitably.

Laws will further be enacted to protect descendants of the dead holding interests in any land, including spouses.

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