News 2008


We Must Give Land Reforms Priority

Business Daily (Nairobi)


3 February 2008

Ibrahim Mwathane

The importance of land in our social and economic development, peace and security, cannot be gainsaid.

Therefore, a suitable land policy framework as a basis for securing land rights to improve livelihoods and facilitate sustainable economic development remains a priority for Kenya, eastern Africa and the continent.

To this effect, delegates from the 13 nations of eastern Africa region met in Kigali, Rwanda, for three days from January 16 in a Regional Workshop organised to advance this objective. This was the second of the five Regional Consultative Workshops planned to gather region-specific content as part of the continental initiative to develop a Land Policy Framework for Africa.

The initiative is driven by the African Union, the African Development Bank and the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa. It commenced in Addis Ababa in March 2006 and involves a wide range of stakeholder consultations that are intended to gather consensus on the key elements that should characterise the framework. This effort has since led to the development of a continental background document summarising land issues in Africa.

From this, a draft framework of land policy and land reform in Africa was drawn. The Regional Workshops will in return improve this draft framework by pointing out the key land issues or gaps in each of the regions.

The first of these workshops was held for Southern Africa States in Windhoek, Namibia in August 2007. Other workshops for Central, Western and Northern Africa will follow.

Thereafter, the enhanced framework will be subjected to an African Experts Meeting and subsequent approval by African Ministers handling land docket before presentation for adoption by the summit of African Heads of State and Government. The resultant framework and guidelines will guide the formulation and implementation of land policies by African Union member states.

For this purpose, the AU groups Eastern Africa to constitute the Comoros, Madagascar, Seychelles, Mauritius, Tanzania, Somalia, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Sudan, Uganda, Rwanda and Kenya.

This cuts across countries which are members of IGAD, EAC, COMESA and even, as for Tanzania, SADC. Delegates did notice the curious omission of Burundi, a member of EAC, from the group and suggested , it should fall in Eastern and not Central Africa as is the case now.

Despite the post-poll strife, Kenya managed to have representation from among others, the chairman of the Institution of Surveyors of Kenya, the National Coordinator of the Kenya Land Alliance and the Coordinator of National Land Policy Formulation Programme, Messrs Mwenda Makathimo, Odenda Lumumba and Reuben Murugu respectively.

Issues and omissions specific to Kenya were, therefore, well identified. And, of course, the relevance of a regional approach to suitable land policy reforms couldn't have been better rubbed in by the skirmishes in Kenya. These had affected neighbours Uganda, Rwanda and Southern Sudan in particular and delegates were quick to point this out.

Trade in services and goods had been severely affected following the interruption of road and rail traffic through Kenya, leading to shortages of fuel and other products.

Kenyans continue to call for suitable land reforms to address issues relating to poverty and inter-ethnic conflicts, among others. This aligns quite well with the continental land policy objective.

Kenyan delegates who attended this forum should hence lobby our Tenth Parliament to give priority to the discussion on our national land policy as a broad strategy to help resolve some land related concerns that added to the post-poll violence.