The Senate was shocked to learn that the vast Turkana county which is 77,000 square kilometers has only one Lands Registrar who also covers the neighbouring West Pokot county.
The Senate Lands and Environment Committee chaired by Nyandarua Senator John Methu was informed that locals do not have sufficient proof of owning land which complicates matters whenever they have to be compensated in the event the government acquires their land.
Senators William Cheptumo (Baringo), Agnes Kavindu (Machakos), Jonnes Mwaruma (Taita Taveta), Beatrice Ogolla (nominated) and Mariam Omar (nominated) wondered why a vast county like Turkana is served by only one Lands Registrar.
“Another Land Registrar needs to be posted in Turkana County immediately. It is a matter of concern that for the 10 years since devolution was initiated, nothing has been done on land registration. Without title deeds it would be difficult to compensate locals in cases where their land is acquired by the government,” said Senator Kavindu.
Methu said the committee will push for the community land laws to be enacted so that the people can benefit emphasizing the need for more staff in the Lands Department to ensure that areas which require land subdivision and registration are catered for.
Senator Ogolla accused the national government of neglecting the people of Turkana terming it the reason that the vast county has been having one lands registrar since independence. He said the situation has hampered the delivery of land services to residents.
Turkana County Executive Committee Member for Lands, Physical Planning and Urban Areas Management Peter Akono told the committee sitting in Lodwar town that pressure is piling on competing land uses after the discovery of oil and gas, national infrastructure and agriculture.
“Turkana county is one of the largest counties and requires more resources and manpower so that land registration can be carried out properly. At the moment the National Land Commission is supposed to issue at least 4,000 leases under the current land registration,” said Akono.
The CEC told the Senate committee that some 4,000 title deeds are to be issued to the land owners in the county under the land regularization programme and called for an amicable resolution to the border dispute with West Pokot county which has been a source of conflict between residents.
Akono said that even as the registration is carried out the relevant government agencies should ensure that the locals' way of living is not interfered with so that they can embrace the exercise to successfully settle longstanding land problems.
The CEC told the committee that the use of technology is now the preferred way of dealing with land issues and registration using Geographic Information System (GIS) as a land management tool and digitizing land records was the way to go.
Lokichogio MCA Vincent Ekipor told the committee that the Turkana community relies on non-governmental organisations to carry out land registration and adjudication yet the function was supposed to be performed by the national government.
“We are calling on the government to allow individual land registration to be done since at the moment it is a fact that most members of the Turkana community rely on non-governmental organisations to undertake land registration and adjudication, which should not be the case,” said Ekipor.
The county government has submitted an inventory of 63 registration units which were gazetted by Lands Cabinet Secretary Zachary Njeru on April 13 while 10 communities from Turkana South and East Sub-counties have submitted the Community Land Act form for registration.
Article 63 (1) of the Constitution states that community land shall be held by communities identified on the basis of ethnicity, culture or similar community of interest with the community land consisting of land lawfully registered in the name of group representatives under the provisions of any law.
The Constitution further states that community land is a parcel of land lawfully transferred to a specific community by any process of law and any other land declared to be community land by an Act of Parliament.