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Parliament adopts National Land Policy

By | December 4th 2009

Parliament has finally adopted the National Land Policy.

Members hailed the document as the key to resolving disputes linked to Kenya’s volatile land issues.

This paves the way for the Government to implement radical proposals contained in Sessional Paper No 3 of 2009, which becomes the first comprehensive document governing land matters since independence.

To do so, the Government will craft legislations to ensure the provisions aimed at addressing the land question becomes a reality.

With its passage, all land laws will be consolidated and a National Land Commission established as the custodian of public land and to administer all land across the country.

The Government has also been given the green light to reduce the controversial colonial 999-year leases to 99 years, which has been fiercely opposed by beneficiaries.

This will ensure foreigners have no hold on the vital resource for eternity but local peasants are on notice too that they will not enjoy absolute will to subdivide their land.

It also sets the stage for redressing historical land dispossession in Coast and Rift Valley provinces by restoring the historic claims of indigenous communities. The Government is expected to address historical dispossession of tribes by colonial and post-colonial regimes and to reopen land allocations since 1895.

Other changes that would alter land use include developing new land tenure systems and laws, recognition of community/ indigenous/customary land rights. The Government is also expected to introduce land banking to ensure the State has land for emergency services.

Land injustices

The policy defines historical land injustices as "grievances which stretch back to colonial land administration practices and laws that resulted in mass disinheritance of communities of their land, and which grievances have not been addressed."

It creates a legal mechanism for the Government to acquire any land in Kenya, through compulsory acquisition/forfeiture and accords pre-emptive rights to original owners and their successors/descendants over any illegally acquired land.

The document also limits legal protection for private property that has been acquired illegally, irregularly or out of historical injustice.

"The document was prepared to inform the constitutional review process and I am happy that the policy has informed sufficiently what is in the harmonized draft constitution," said Lands minister James Orengo.

It calls for equal rights on access to land by men and women. Nominated MP Millie Odhiambo applauded the move saying it was long overdue.

-By Alex Ndegwa and David Ochami

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