The decision by the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) task force to give the land problem a wide berth has raised questions given that this has been the cause of tribal clashes.
Some MPs and legal experts have wondered why the task force ignored the thorny issue that has continued to divide the country for decades especially during electioneering periods.
“Even though BBI gave the land question a wide berth, we must be brave enough to deal with it now. We must have an audit of all private, public and government land once and for all so that we can clean up the mess at our land registry,” said Kitutu Chache South MP Richard Onyonka.
Fodder for politicians
Joshua Nyamori, a legal expert, feels that addressing governance and electoral issues while ignoring the land problems would not end ethnicity.
“Kenyans are not just divided because of elections. I would have taken BBI team seriously if it even attempted to venture into land reforms, the remaining front-line in our struggle to change this country,” he said.
The historical land injustices have been at the heart of land conflicts in the country.
The land problem has been fodder for politicians during campaigns.
Mr Onyonka said the situation has been worsened by the reluctance by government officials to address the underlying issues touching on land.
“It is a very sensitive matter because the land owners think that somebody may be tempted to repossess land already allotted or acquired legally. Kenyans would however be happy to know who owns which land, how they acquired it and how much tax they have been paying for it,” he added.
Nyando MP Jared Okello however defended the BBI task force saying the land matter was not in the nine point agenda outlined by President Kenyatta and ODM leader Raila Odinga.
“BBI was meant to address the nine point agenda and land was not part of it. This was a guided process and there is no way the taskforce could have brought up an issue outside that framework,” he said.
The BBI nine point agenda included ethnic antagonism, lack of national ethos, inclusivity, devolution, divisive elections, security, corruption, shared prosperity, and responsibility. Although was not expressly covered in the report, Mr Okelo says there were recommendations in the document which would help deal with the problem.
“The report talks about strengthening of institutions and I believe institutions such as the National Land Commission (NLC) should be strengthened to deal with the matter,” he observed.
Former Law Society of Kenya President James Mwamu was surprised that the BBI report did not dedicate even a page to address land issue. He noted that the overlapping roles between NLC and the Ministry of Lands should have been addressed.
He regretted that previous inquiries on land such as the Ndung’u Commission report, were gathering dust on the shelves.
The commission was set up by former President Kibaki to inquire into corruption surrounding public land dealings from I962 to 2002.
“The previous commissions gave some good recommendations that the BBI team ought to have brought forward for action,” he suggested.