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Survey unveils why institutions lack public land title documents

By Mwaghesha Mkala | March 17th 2016
Land Development & Governance Institute's Executive Director Mwenda Makathimo makes his presentation during the Media Briefing on the Land Governance Institutions in Kenya at the Nairobi Safari Club. Land belonging to public institutions have been the target of grabbers, and for good reason - they hardly have title deeds. (PHOTO: ELVIS OGINA/ STANDARD)

For a long time now, land belonging to public institutions have been the target of grabbers, and for good reason -- they hardly have title deeds.

And a new survey lifts the lid on why these public institutions lack the crucial ownership documents.

Whereas the majority -- 77 per cent -- know the extent of the land they own, only 41 per cent have proof of ownership.

The findings of the survey , by the Land Development and Governance Institute, said the major cause for the lack of ownership documents was the slow bureaucratic process of getting the land documents.

But they also discovered a startling fact -- that there was also a deliberate effort by either government and/or institution officials to not furnish or acquire the titles, a matter that makes them susceptible to land grabbing.

“While some managers pointed out the slow process of acquiring titles, we discovered that there was a deliberate effort not to furnish these institutions with the documents...,” said Mr Mwenda Makathimo, the executive director of the governance institute.

The survey was conducted between January 29 and February 17, this year, in 21 counties to est ablish the status of public land management and targeted public institutions, County Land Management Boards and the general public. It covered 88 public institutions, 18 county lands boards and 254 individuals.

Said the institute: “You cannot convince me that the government does not have the resources to map and give deeds to every public institution in Kenya,” said Makathimo.

Chapter Five of the Constitution defines public land as that occupied by state organs, government forests, game reserves and national parks, specially protected areas, roads and road reserves.


While some institutions such as the Kenya Ports Authority, Kenya Forest Services and the Kenya Wildlife Service have mapped their land, other institutions are facing encroachment by members of the public and even other public institutions because of lak of clear boundaries or knowledge of the extent of their land.

“It is very basic. You cannot manage what you do not own. These managers are working with their hands tied because most do not know the extent of the land they are managing. This is all deliberate to ensure land can be hived off to reward politicians or businessmen,” said Makathimo.

The report accused the National Land Commission, tasked with managing public land on behalf of national and county governments, of laxity in mapping out land.

“We can see the commission is trying to get land management under control, but they have had over three years at the helm. We expected them to have done an extensive inventory of all land in Kenya, especially public land,” said Makathimo of the Dr Muhammad Swazuri-led team.


According to the survey, 65 per cent of respondents are unaware of the mandate of the land commission. Only eight per cent are aware of the commission’s mandate and had interacted with the commission.

“It is necessary for the land commission to prioritise the establishment of an inventory on public land,” advised Makathimo. “This will ensure that the extent of land under the commission’s management is well known and any attempt to irregularly acquire or illegally occupy it will be easily detected and addressed,” said Makathimo.

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