Politics and policy
Judiciary urged to pave the way for land commission team
Posted Sunday, September 23 2012 at 14:34
- Analysts warn that absence of a functional commission puts the country at risk of fraudulent and irregular land transactions during the transition to a devolved system of government.
- Apart from having a functional land commission, the government is also under pressure to ensure efficient operations of the newly created Environment and Land Court.
Slow progress on two cases that are holding back the appointment of officials to the National Land Commission (NLC) has raised fears of a vacuum in managing land transactions.
Analysts warn that absence of a functional commission puts the country at risk of fraudulent and irregular land transactions during the transition to a devolved system of government.
“Given the importance of the land commission to national governance, the judiciary should prioritise the hearing of the relevant court cases so that the pertinent issues are quickly addressed to unlock the appointment of the commissioners,” Ibrahim Mwathane, chairman Land Development and Governance Institute (LDGI) said. Parliament last month approved the names of nine members to serve in the commission but President Kibaki is yet to make the appointments owing to the pending court cases.
The nine nominees cleared by Parliament include; Mohammed Swazuri (chairman) , Tomiik Mboya Konyimbih, Silas Kinoti Muriithi, Rose Mumbua Musyoka, Samuel Kipng’etich Tororei, Abigael Mbagaya, Emma Muthoni Njogu, Clement Isaiah Lenachuru and Abdulkadir Adan Khalif.
The NLC is tasked with managing public land on behalf of the national and county governments, recommending a national land policy to the national government and advising it on a comprehensive programme for the registration of title in land throughout Kenya.
It is also mandated with conducting research related to land and the use of natural resources and make recommendations to appropriate authorities among others.
Mr Mwathane said delays in the operationalisation of the land commission could be exploited by some rogue government officers to irregularly allocate public land or pass verdicts on land leases against public interest.
“This fear heightens now that we are at the eve of a general election. Past trends inform that there has always been a frenzy of allocation of public land or the selective extension or rejection of extension of expired land leases just before, during and just after general elections in Kenya,” he said.
Land has proved emotive during election campaigns and often degenerated into violent clashes in some hotspots.
“We recommend that the land commission undertakes a forensic audit of all allocations and extensions of leases of public land with a view to protecting public interest as soon as it assumes office,” Mr Mwathane said.
He said local authorities also needed to be watched to avoid abuse of their function as custodians of public land who routinely drive land allocation within their jurisdictions.
Mr Mwenda Makathimo, an analyst on land issues, said officials who play key roles such as land registrars should be vetted for integrity and technical capacity.
He said most ministry officials would prefer to serve in the land commission in order to cover up for their past misdeeds. “This challenge may greatly reduce the technical resource base from which the new institutions would recruit staff,” Mr Makathimo said.
Apart from having a functional land commission, the government is also under pressure to ensure efficient operations of the newly created Environment and Land Court.