Why land is the most emotive subject in Kenya after ethnic politics

Illegal allocation of public land in Kenya is one of the most pronounced manifestations of corruption – Ndung’u Report

Land is not only the most important factor of production but also a very emotive issue in Kenya. 80% of our population relies on agriculture, yet only 20% of the land mass comprises arable land. Those in the political class and in business regard land as a source of personal wealth and power. For those in the rural areas, land is not only their sole livelihood but also the subject of great emotional attachment. Land was the major factor that drove the fight for independence from the British colonial power. But even after independence, discontentment over land ownership has remained the most notable source of frequent conflicts and tribal clashes between Kenyan communities.

The Constitution recognizes that a lasting solution to the land problem lies in an effective legal and institutional framework. It thus requires that all laws relating to land are revised, consolidated and rationalized. The Kenyan parliament enacted the Land Act, 2012 which aims to revise, consolidate and rationalize land laws in order to provide for the sustainable administration and management of land and land based resources. It also enacted the Land Registration Act, 2012 whose objective is to revise, consolidate and rationalize the registration of titles to land. In the same year, the National Land Commission Act, 2012 was enacted purposely to establish and provide for the functioning of the National Land Commission (NLC), the public body charged with responsibility of managing public land on behalf of the national and county governments.

Kenya is in the midst of land reforms that have far-reaching implications for securing the land rights of rural people and promoting political stability and economic development.

These reforms are based on a National Land Policy (NLP), adopted in 2009 after years of wide consultation with various stakeholders. Past recommendations on land reforms contained in the Report of the Commission of Inquiry into the Illegal/Irregular Allocation of Public Land, popularly known as the ‘Ndung’u Report’ have not been implemented. The report notes that illegal allocation of public land in Kenya is “one of the most pronounced manifestations of corruption”. Among its recommendations, it calls for: all allocations of public utility land to be nullified and the lands repossessed; the investigation and prosecution of public officials who facilitated or participated in the illegal allocation; and the recovery of all monies and proceeds acquired as a result of it.

In 2013, the government formed a National Land Commission to act as the lead agency in land matters, working with the Ministry of Lands, Housing and Urban Development (MLHUD) and county-level institutions. These are some of the broad range reforms introduced by a new constitution promulgated in 2010.No photo description available.