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Community Land Act: We played our role, let officials honour pledge

Sunday February 23 2020

By LETTER
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On July 24 last year, together with other delegates from nine rural communities of Kajiado, Laikipia, Isiolo, Turkana and Tana River, we marched to the Ministry of Lands to demand that the government, in compliance with the 2016 Community Land Act, recognise our demand for legal ownership of our communal lands.

The Deputy Director for Land Adjudication and the Cabinet secretary promised to do so in four months.

Six months on, the ministry has done neither that nor updating the communities on the status of our applications — despite many requests.

We left the meeting hopeful and excited that we would soon have legal ownership over our land and that it would be protected.

But we are now worried. Every day without a title to our lands puts our culture and rural livelihoods at risk.

Without land, we will have nowhere to graze our livestock, collect firewood, raise our children and bury our dead.

DELAYED JUSTICE

Historically, we, the indigenous and rural communities in Kenya, have not had the legal rights to determine how our communal land is used.

We have been left vulnerable to exploitation; without our consent, our land can be rented out — at an absurdly low price — to foreign investors or taken outright for a public infrastructure project.

The Community Land Act was meant to address this injustice. But a law is only as strong as its implementation.

The ministry’s unexplained delay in processing the 11 applications is unacceptable but not surprising. It has been three years since the law was enacted and little has been done to put it into practice.

Our communities, in contrast, have worked hard to comply with its requirements.

We have drafted bylaws for land governance and sustainable natural resource management, elected community land management committees, formed community assemblies, created registers of members and documented our land claims. Our entire communities participated.

PUBLIC AWARENESS

It was not easy and it took a long time. We are disappointed that we have done our part yet the government has failed to process our applications within the time frame they provided.

We demand that the ministry immediately provide us with an official update on the status of our applications and reiterate our request for the government to complete their processing and, subsequently, demarcate the lands and issue titles deeds.

It should also do the same for other communities, carry out the legally required national public awareness campaigns and provide support to communities that want to register their land.

The Act is an opportunity to address the most serious land issues and conflicts that rural communities continue to face.

Let the government live up to its commitments if this law is to be anything other than empty words.

Lkinapi Lekuton, Lenguruma community, Isiolo County; Wilson Samuel Sintaro, Munishoi, Laikipia; Tom Putuno, Musul, Laikipia