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Cutting 999-year lease terms

Saturday November 14 2009

By MURIITHI MUTIGA

One of the most contentious clauses in the new land policy is a proposal to scrap 999-year leases. The draft proposes to cap leasehold terms at 99 years.

This proposal has drawn protests from landowners, mostly of them of European origin, who hold titles to large farms under leases of 999 years granted in 1915 after sustained pressure from white settlers on the British colonial administration.

The seizure of thousands of acres of land from local communities created discontent among the African population. This anger would later boil over into the armed struggle for independence.

Early settlers, who were initially granted 99-year leases beginning 1902, applied pressure on the British government to extend the leasehold terms to 999 years.

The move succeeded, and the Britain allowed the passage of the Crown Lands Ordinance of 1915, which extended the leases. If the draft policy is adopted, all the existing 999-year leases will be shortened to 99-year holdings.