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Land Commission raises alarm over Kenya’s new Land bill

By George Orido | October 21st 2015

NAIROBI: The National Land Commission has raised a red flag over the proposed land laws that will have far reaching implications and the adjudication of land tenure should it passed by Parliament in its current form.

Speaking at a meeting with the members of the Kenya Editors Guild at a Nairobi Hotel the Commission CEO Tom Azizi Chavangi expressed deep fears that the proposals would literally kill the commission.

“If anyone has problem with any individual at the commission, that should not be used to kill the commission through unconstitutional laws,’ he said.

He emphasise that as a Constitutional Commission the only way to change provisions of the Supreme LAW establishing it would be through nothing less than a national referendum.

Commissioner Dr Arap Tororei reminded Kenyans that the reason the Constitution established the Commission was because the Land Ministry had failed to address past land injustices.

“The wounds of land injustices are neither old nor closed. They are not only current, they are bare and full of pus. If we do not deal with them now, they will be septic and harder to deal with later,” he told off those who repeatedly saying the discussion of past injustices would open old wounds.

He told of how the commission had worked on a comprehensive land bill and took it to the Cabinet Secretary, “but the bill died in the cabinet of the Cabinet Secretary.”

Commission Vice Chairperson Abigael Mbagaya was livid in her defense of the Commission‘s work and attacking the recommended laws in parliament, “We are doing great work within the law but NLC is an unwanted baby growing and almost bigger than the father.”

She took time to take members of the guild thorough about 30 sections of the Land Registration Act of 2012, National Land Commission act of 2012and the Land Act of 2102 in what she termed the Omnibus raft of proposed amendments that need to be rejected.

These include Section 54 (4) and (5) and (6) that touches on the application for renewal of leases and compensation.

The section if amended will defend unscrupulous holders whose leases expire to be compensated thereby fleecing the government coffers at the expense of the taxpayers.

“We strongly propose that this additional defective clauses be deleted as they have n place in contemporary Kenya and the land sector reforms,” said part of the resolutions from the commission.

Ms Mbagaya took particular issue with Section 4 of the Omnibus recommendations saying the section purports to amend section 6 of the Land registration act by inserting a provision that empowers CS Lands as an adjudicator of Community Land.

This she says will nullify the need to have a community law and denying communities to be in charge of community land as envisaged in Article 63(4) of the constitution.

Warning that Section 5 of the Omnibus amendments that gives powers to the registrar to alter land records without reference, could cause bloodshed, she said the same section would deny courts exhibits and proof since land rights will have been erased.

“The amendments are clever clean-up and cover up of the mess in the present land registries and can make or break the land sector and will have an implication of historical land injustices, review or grants and addressing the Ndungu Report,’ she says.

Section 8 of the new amendments also came into sharp focus by its powers to remove the role of the County Governments and the NLC by introducing the new position of the Land Registrar.

But worse is Section 15 that deletes the current provision Section 26 of the Land Registration Act that states that grounds for challenging the acquisition of title is also if the acquisition is by “unprocedural through corrupt schemes.”

The proposed deletion would be unconstitutional, she said.

The meeting was informed that the Commission is currently embarking on a digital platform to manage land issues in Kenya.

“What the Ministry did by closing the registry for 10 ten days can only be explained by themselves. In fact we are told it was more of manipulating the files,” said Mrs MMbagaya.

The Editor Guild Chairman Linus Kaikai promised the commission that the media was ready to work with the commission to defend the rights of Kenyans when it comes to matters land.

“I want to thank the President in his addressing saying Journalists should continue speaking freely. We hope he will see the same sense in these proposed amendments,” he said.

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