Last week’s repossession of 1,600 acres of alleged grabbed land in Ruai, Nairobi has generated lots of public interest. There has been a lot of speculation regarding just who the real owner of the land is.
Apparently, the 1,600 acres are part of 3,000 acres set aside by the government for the expansion of the Dandora Sewerage Treatment Plant in the 1980s.
The riddle of grabbed public land is far from being solved despite perfunctory efforts spanning decades.
Indeed, presidential candidates have over the years romped home, partly on the promise of returning grabbed public land.
At the beginning of 2018, for instance, President Uhuru Kenyatta promised Kenyans that 23,000 acres of appropriated land belonging to the National Youth Service (NYS) would be repossessed.
Notwithstanding that beneficiaries of the NYS land are known public figures, the land is yet to be repossessed and the occupiers charged.
Not even the Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) has been spared the avarice of land grabbers. KDF is said to have lost 40,000 acres of land to grabbers in different parts of the country.
The Kenya Civil Aviation Authority, the Kenya Airports Authority, the Prisons Department and several public schools have also lost land to grabbers, often people of great influence in society.
Pertinent questions have been raised regarding how public land could be appropriated while the National Lands Commission, the custodian of deeds, is in place without it doing much to repossess the land.
To make matters worse, despite promises by the political elite to repossess grabbed land, the only concerted action Kenyans witnessed were the demolitions of a few buildings in 2018, among them the Airgate building in Embakasi that sat on a road reserve, the Ukay Centre, and the South End Mall in Lang’ata said to have been constructed on riparian land. Thereafter, everything fizzled out until the repossession of the Ruai land.
One wonders why the government cannot repossess all grabbed land in the country with the zeal that it had in 2018 or now in Ruai. If it goes for all land grabbers in a similar fashion, it will silence, once and for all, those who allege that such demolitions are politically driven. That will demonstrate that the government neither fears nor favours anyone.
But forceful repossession of grabbed land is not enough. The government must expose suspected grabbers and subject them to the due process of the law. That will be a lesson to all and sundry that crime does not pay.