In the seventh score-card report recently released by the Land Development and Governance Institute (www.ldgi.org/www.ldgi.co.ke) following a countrywide survey, it is noted that close to 60 per cent of Kenyans are not aware that we have new land laws.
And of those aware, a majority have little knowledge about the content.
Knowing what land laws mean to our lives, this is worrying. Land anchors our shelter, food production, businesses and all other sectoral developments.
Land laws define what rights, what obligations, what transactions and what governance institutions will guide us in future. It is, therefore, necessary that land-owners, users, businesspeople and professionals have a good grasp of the new land laws.
The big knowledge gap is an indictment of Kenya’s media, stakeholders and all implementation agencies, including the Ministry of Lands, the Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs, and the Commission for the Implementation of the Constitution. These institutions must move with speed to spread information about the new land laws.
The survey further notes that Kenyans feel that the law enactment process hasn’t been inclusive enough. The information gaps combined with this feeling of non-inclusion aren’t good for effective implementation.
The survey recommends, among other things, that the enactment of future land laws be more inclusive. This will be particularly necessary as the country enacts community land law, which is critical for guiding land-holding and transactions in vast communal spreads where land rights remain unadjudicated.
The report further recommends the intensive use of media in creating awareness among Kenyans on the content of the new land laws. In particular, the use of vernacular radio is recommended.
The use of ICT, particularly the social media, email and focused text message services, is recommended in order to reach out to the youth.
In addition, it will be important to write the laws in local languages for wider reach, just like we do with religious books.
Simplified brochures can be prepared highlighting the key provisions in each of the new land laws. Importantly, the drafting language can be simplified.
The text of the recently enacted land laws is too technical for the lay reader. One hopes the drafters will pay heed to this request for the remaining laws. The language can and should be improved for easy reading by those without legal background.
The report also says that citizens are unhappy with the quality of services offered by the Ministry of Lands. Respondents complained about slow rates of transactions, difficulties in accessing information, delays in resolving land disputes and outright corruption.
Some people complained that they have to return to lands offices for more than 10 times on an issue. The report, therefore, recommends that reforms be undertaken in the ministry to ensure there is strict adherence to a code of conduct on service delivery.
Other recommendations include the need for the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission to conclusively investigate the alleged incidence of corruption and for the ministry to embrace modern technology, including the use of computer and GIS systems, to expedite its input and retrieval systems.
Clearly, many far-flung offices of the ministry ran on challenged manual systems quite humbling even to well-meaning technical staff. Given the complaints the survey picked, the current computerisation efforts by the ministry call for fast-tracking.
Having participated in and observed the land reform process for quite a while, I must admit that we have made tremendous progress.
The attainment of a national land policy in 2009 followed by the anchor of its key provisions in the chapter on Land and Environment of the new Constitution is no mean feat. Many countries in Africa would wish to be where we are.
The subsequent enactment of four new land laws — the Environment and Land Court Act 2011, the National Land Commission Act 2012, the Land Act 2012 and the Land Registration Act 2012, provides Kenya an opportunity to undertake comprehensive land reforms countrywide.
Mr Mwathane is the chairman, Land Development and Governance Institute (firstname.lastname@example.org)