Former Lands secretary Charity Ngilu at the Ardhi House registry

Nation Media calls for a real solution to Kenya’s Persistent Lands Mess

In an editorial published in the Daily Nation (18th May 2016), the Nation Media has blasted as mere treatment of underlying symptoms the dissolution and constitution of new land control boards.

Reacting to the government’s dissolution of all land control boards in the country, and the government’s decision to vet the new appointees, the leading Media House in Kenya noted that although this was ‘significant step’ in restoring confidence in the organs dealing in land matters, the declaration was tantamount to agreeing that land mess in Kenya is embedded at the grassroots, where land brokers collude with the authorities to irregularly hive off and allocate land.

Nairobi has had the lion’s share of irregular land allocations. For instance, the recent tragedy in Huruma in Nairobi where a multi-storeyed building collapsed, Killing tens of people and injuring many others, is a testament to the gravity of irregular land allocations in the county. The building in Huruma, for instance, was a culprit of sloppy workmanship and the absurd construction on a riparian reserve. These kind of scenario play across the country.

The absurdity and short-sighted of land allocation officials was perhaps more poignant in the construction of Ukay Centre, which is built atop a river; and which was recently inundated with floods from the swollen river.

Allocating public land to influential people has seen the government’s infrastructure development costs shoot out of the roof as people with valid titles are compensated for land that should never have been allocated in the first place!.

Although the government’s recent move to dissolve the existing land boards and reconstitute them afresh is laudable, this only amounts to treating the symptoms since irregular land allocations involve a myriad of players who can be traced to the very ministry charged with the issue of dealing with land in the country, the Ministry of Lands Ministry. To compound an already bad situation, the Lands Ministry officials can easily access and tamper with lands records right at the Ministry’s offices. These players are very well connected and have immense political clout that allocating land without following due process is not a bother to them at all.

The Nation Media’s editorial asserts that the government has not demonstrated a genuine desire to introduce land reforms in the country; and in cases where it has attempted to, these attempts have been half-baked publicity stunts.

Even the former Lands Cabinet Secretary Charity Ngilu’s efforts to audit and digitize lands records, which saw the lands offices being closed to the public for weeks, have not resulted in stopping or stemming the greed for grabbing.

Reforming land matters in Kenya must be a holistic approach that involves all the stakeholders. Just postulating this or that reform will not solve the persistent land mess in the country. What will start to gnaw at the land problem in Kenya are not new records and recommendations, but a genuine political goodwill from all the players.