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No Mr President, we are not yet brave enough to undo land theft

By Barrack Muluka - Jun 25th 2022

President Uhuru Kenyatta has advised Kenyans not to vote for land cartels. This is good counsel from the retiring head of state and government. Cartels are easily the worst social pests, anywhere. They reap where they have not sown, and gather where they have not scattered.  

Kenya has witnessed systematic derogation of land rights over the past 59 years. Public land, especially, has been stolen with impunity. I know who stole the Central Bank of Kenya’s land adjacent to Extelecoms House in Nairobi, and NSSF property in the city.

I know who has stolen former City Council houses in Lavington. I can deliver you to the addresses. I can also give you the big names of the people behind them. They rank among those shouting, “Mwizi, mwizi!” 

Public land has been stolen in Nairobi’s Upper Hill, Parklands, and Spring Valley. Property has been purloined along Mzima Springs Road in Lavington, Suguta Road in Kileleshwa, Kisauni Road, Kikambala Road, and Makueni Road, in the same area.

Kenya Railways property has been stolen all over the country. While it was supposed to be sold, to benefit a staff pension scheme, Railways pensioners have gone for three years without receiving a coin. The mother of all problems in Kenya is deceit.

We simply cannot face the facts around our mortal national social ailments. Hence, when the president says the age of land theft is gone forever, I don’t believe him.

The Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission (TJRC) report has gathered dust in Parliament for the past nine years. In its 2,221 pages reside details of what ails Kenya. 

President Kenyatta will be familiar with the fact that the report makes serious charges against powerful political families, and the property they own.

He will also be aware that in the Azimio la Umoja-One Kenya Alliance, and in Kenya Kwanza, are people cited for grand theft. He knows his government has done nothing about this, beyond pious lamentations in public. Such is deceit.

More significantly, my president is aware that his government that has barked without biting, is shortly retiring. Disjointed painkilling action, like giving out macro title deeds has looked attractive to this government.

Hence, we can today boast of giving out more title deeds than during the rest of our history. In real terms, we have only engaged in tokenism, to attract votes in the elections of 2017 and 2022. Such will be the Uhuru Kenyatta land legacy.

I will treat with jaundiced eyes high-source pronouncements on corruption, theft and land reform in my country. My leaders are not serious. Azimio’s Raila Odinga, for example, during the presidential debates of 2013, accused the Kenyatta family of appalling land issues.

To put matters beyond doubt, he explained the 2002 Uhuru Project in his autobiography, The Flame of Freedom (2013).  He said, “The Moi and Kenyatta families (and to a lesser extent the Kibaki family) also have wide ranging and extensive land and business holdings.

“Naturally, the rather opaque nature of many of these acquisitions needed protection. Moi, looking ahead to the future of his family, once he retired, no doubt saw his elevation and subsequent control of Uhuru Kenyatta as vital, if they were to protect everything they owned.”   

How am I to understand the avowals from my president’s corner on integrity in the next regime? When Mr Odinga vows to correct confounding acquisitions of wealth in Kenya, where does that leave accusations he has made in the past?

Where does it leave the TJRC and the Ndung’u Land Commission Report? Where does it leave Cabinet Secretaries previously said to be “thieves,” but who now call out thieves, while cozying around Mr Odinga? 

How does Odinga propose to treat his new found friends, whom he has previously accused of theft?

Does Kenya have the courage to look into its history of theft and resolve it?  Who will be safe? Could this be why my relative, Francis Atwoli (our mothers are first cousins), likes asking the question, “In whose hands are we safe?” Who is the “we” in my cousin’s reflections?

Dr Muluka is a strategic communications advisor.

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