NAIROBI--Kenya is planning to put in place an eviction and resettlement law by the end of 2014, the country’s land agency said on Monday.
National Land Commission (NLC) Chairman Muhammad Swazuri told journalists in Nairobi that stakeholders are currently reviewing the bill before it is forwarded parliament.
“We want to ensure that there is humane eviction of people from land,” Swazuri said during the launch of the NLC’s five year strategic plan. He noted that evictions are very common in Kenya.
“Many squatters have settled on idle land and this is affecting real estate investments,” he said. The proposed law will ensure that people are provided with alternative land before they are evicted.
“The current situation is affecting land use,” Swazuri said. Once all parcels of land are settled legally, investors are able to develop them with certainty,” the chairman said.
Kenya is also reviewing the National Lands Commission and the Land Act.
The NLC is among the institutions in the country that have begun to engage in and to operationalize reforms in their different sectors as required by the constitution.
Land reforms are among the key changes proposed by Kenya’s national development blueprints.
NLC Vice Chairperson Abigael Mbagaya-Mukolwe said that land resource should be managed to ensure equitable, efficient and sustainable use.
“We have initiated and completed most of the processes of developing rules, procedures, guidelines, amendments and regulations to all enabling land laws,” she said.
NLC is also mandated to digitize of all land records.
She added that in order to ensure that all evictions are carried out within the law, they are currently identifying land for resettlement of squatters.
“This will be assisted through a comprehensive land information database,” she said. The vice chairperson decried the lack of awareness on land laws, land procedures and regulations.
Chief Justice Willy Mutunga said that land remains one of the most intractable problems facing Kenya as a result of bad governance.
“There are also emerging challenges related to the protection of the environment and sustainable development that secures livelihoods for future generations,” he said.
Before colonialism, the various communities had roughly delineated their land and appreciated individual as well as communal rights of access and use.
“The colonialists displaced whole communities from their lands and this is the bedrock of historical land injustices in the country,” Mutunga said.
He noted that the executive’s exercise of authority to alienate government land has often been prone to abuse.
The constitution has established the Environment and Land Courts to give impetus to land reforms.
These specialized court responds to the need to resolve land disputes justly and in an expeditious manner with due regard to the sensitive nature of land ownership in Kenya.
“Beginning last year, the courts have began to make significant gains in reducing case backlogs as well as tackling new disputes filed before it,” the chief justice said.
The judiciary is also mandated to promote the use of alternative dispute resolution mechanisms between and among parties in order to arrive at just outcomes.
NLC Chief Executive Officer Tom Chavangi said that land has been and will continue to be the mainstay of Kenya’s economy. “Therefore its ownership, allocation and distribution is of great concern to all Kenyans,” he said.
In the late 1980s to 2002, public land was illegally and irregularly allocated resulting to unequal access to land.
“Land grabbing intensified to the extent that land meant for public purposes was acquired by individuals and corporations,” Chavangi said.
He added that Kenya will ensure there is security of tenure for all socioeconomic groups, including pastoral communities and informal settlement residents.
Lands Principal Secretary Mariamu El Maawy said that there is need to promote non-land based economic activities due to diminishing land sizes.
“There is also a challenge of multiplicity of laws on land management and use,” he said.