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ELECTION 2022

Move fast and sort land question for the country’s capital city to expand

OPINION
By Dr Evans Kidero | Nov 20th 2016 | 4 min read

The difficulty in sorting out the land muddle in Kenya is increasingly negating Nairobi’s growth and expansion as Africa’s premier capital.

As the country’s political, commercial, industrial and administrative capital, the county’s 696 square kilometres of its land mass is obviously of premium value.

The county also holds a unique place as the only county hosting an unparalleled number of key national government installations, foreign agencies and organisations and the highest population within a nominal land mass.

People may not realise this but Nairobi’s four million plus inhabitants are squeezed within a mere third of the county land mass. The rest— two thirds— is swallowed up by industries, parks, infrastructure and open space.

Against great odds and pressures, the county government continues to service the city by providing the essentials of health, transport, security and other infrastructure services.
Since 2013, and from our analysis, we have wasted 60 per cent of our time and resources to the confusion wrought by poor land administration and record system that stretches back in history.

The problem of land across the country is so acute that land memorandums and grievances accounted for 40 per cent of all statements made to the Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission when it went round the country. The problem is no less severe in Nairobi.

Billions of shillings worth of rates that would ideally go on to improve the quality of healthcare and education in our city are trapped in the web of double claims to land, forceful acquisition by powerful institutions, inordinate delays in solving land disputes and historical lapses in proper land adjudication and administration.

Getting land to put up public facilities is becoming a nightmare yet the city is looking forward to burst into a glorious future of a first class and modern city. And thousands of Kenyans are unable to access capital for investments because they lack titles to their properties.
Again, the TJRC drew a necessary nexus between land injustice and violence in the country and went as far as to declare that the stability of the country depended to a great extent on the willingness of political actors to address land grievances and disputes.

Here in Nairobi, we lose an average 200 of our most productive people every year to homicides (murders) relating to land disputes. This translates to slightly an average of one person being killed every two days over the county’s prime land.

The loss wrought to families, the county and the country at large by these deaths is enormous to say the least. The image we send out there to investors, people of goodwill and outsiders generally is unimaginable. They grow apprehensive and scared.

The more the country continues to bury its head in the sand to the problem, the more it escalates. Like a malignant tumour that grows, the unresolved land issues in the county will exacerbate and continue to divide the county government’s attention from more pressing issues of delivery.

We are pulling all stops as a county government to play our role. We have even set up a special office to deal with land issues but at every corner, however, we are assailed by the reality that we cannot do this alone. The problem requires an integrated approach from the various government agencies and the people of Nairobi to be moved.

The Judiciary, under the new administration of Chief Justice David Maraga, and through the guidance of National Council for Administration of Justice needs to urgently find a formula for fast racking the resolution of land disputes.

It is a serious indictment that land disputes stretching way back 40 years ago are still bubbling in our courts. What sort of justice will such a long drawn process achieve?

Of utmost urgency for now is the need to establish an electronic land records portal accessible to county governments, National Lands Commission, Kenya Revenue Authority and other relevant authorities. More than ever, the country desires a comprehensive national Spatial Data Infrastructure which can be shared in this portal for the benefit of various agencies.

Prosecutions over land-related crimes require swiftness and thoroughness. A special prosecutorial division on land-related matters should be set up within the Office of Director of Public Prosecutions to help obtain deterrent convictions for criminals and fraudsters in the land sector.

Land buying companies, which acquired parcels for members, need to be facilitated to acquire titles. This will go a long way in regularising membership dealings with the properties and the county government reduces conflict and assist in county planning.

In this regard, land buying companies should take cue from Chieko and Embakasi Ranch land buying companies which have been working very closely with the county government to regularise their operations.

Finally, we cannot continue sitting on the Ndung’u report on illegal land allocations. The report remains one of the most valuable official documents NLM can rely on to sort us out. It should form the basis for sustained government action to recover lands that were illegally acquired from the public.

The NLC must now implement the report in public interest and take back public land without compensation.

The county government of Nairobi is pleading to be set free. We are tired of moving circles in as far as land issues are concerned. The energy we waste pursuing land-related issues can be expended in provision of other services of importance to the residents.

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