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Tough task for new NLC team

Tuesday August 20 2019

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The new team nominated by President Uhuru Kenyatta to run the National Land Commission (NLC) for the next six years should have no illusions about the job ahead.

They will, once endorsed by Parliament, be taking charge of a key organisation, which has failed to properly execute its mandate, and been embroiled in corruption allegations. President Kenyatta has written to National Assembly Speaker Justin Muturi seeking the MPs’ approval of lawyer Gershom Otachi as the chairman, succeeding Prof Muhammad Swazuri, who had a troubled tenure.

Picked to work with Mr Otachi in the NLC is a team comprising some politicians, several other prominent Kenyans and an academic that should bring in much-needed knowledge, experience and expertise. Of course, the MPs should not just rubber-stamp the President's choices, as they have a key constitutional role to ensure that the very best serve on such public commissions.

The commission has been marred by corruption allegations that have landed the former chairman in court. He is, of course, innocent until proven guilty, but it’s imperative that holders of public offices are always beyond reproach. There has been a vacuum since the term of the former commissioners expired on February 19. The sooner the new team takes over the reins the better.

This organisation was set up to clean up and streamline the management of this major national resource and also resolve some historical injustices. But from the outset, the NLC got engulfed in a needless turf war with the Lands ministry, the clear distinction in their respective jurisdictions notwithstanding.

Once approved by Parliament, the new team will have the tough challenge of restoring the NLC’s badly tattered image. Kenyans will be expecting better stewardship to enable it to deliver on its crucial mandate.