News 2008


Dispute over draft land policy rages



By David Ochami

Proponents and opponents of the draft National Land Policy are at it again, trading fresh accusations.

On Tuesday, Lands Minister James Orengo said he would prepare a Sessional Paper to present to Parliament for debate and possible adoption after Cabinet approval.

Landowners are making fresh claims, saying they have been ignored in the formulation of the draft.

Public Hysteria

But civil society organisations accuse critics of the draft of opposing land reforms and instigating public hysteria to safeguard entrenched interests and the status quo.

"If they (MPs and Cabinet ministers) are serious about solving land issues and perennial conflicts, including the Mau Forest crisis, they ought to support these proposals," said Mr Odindo Opiata, the executive director of the Economic and Social Rights Centre.

Large-scale landowners, under the Kenya Landowners Association (Kela) and Kenya Land Forum, are accusing Orengo and the civil society of trying to impose populist and leftwing land policies to expropriate private land and give it to the landless.

Kela claimed, through its website and newsletters, that the proposals accord immense rights to squatters at land owners’ expense, encourage environmental and land degradation and are against free enterprise.

land seizures

Kela also claims the proposed policy will spawn and legitimise Zimbabwe-style land seizures.

Opiata said the proposed policy constitutes most reasonable proposals, subject to continuous improvement, to address historical land disputes and injustice and protect public good.

The proposals seek to control foreign ownership of Kenyan land, eliminate 999-year leases, impose taxes on idle land and enable the Government seize and distribute land acquired illegally.

It also removes the president’s control and limits the minister’s powers over public land and seeks to address illegal settlement schemes and land acquisitions after independence.

It creates three land tenure systems, recognising private, community and private land ownership and seeks to establish a commission answerable to Parliament to address all land matters.