Columnists

Delays in appointing registrars undermine community land rights

karo

Land Secretary Farida Karoney. FILE PHOTO | NMG

The passing of the Community Land Act in 2016 marked a great milestone for local communities and indigenous people in Kenya. Under the Act, communities finally have legal rights to own, manage, and govern the land and natural resources that we depend on for our livelihoods, culture, and identity.

Before the Community Land Act was passed, communal and indigenous lands were managed by ineffective group ranch committees or held in trust by county governments.

Unfortunately, the government has not yet put into place the structures, personnel, and programmes that are needed to actually implement the law. This is a great disappointment to communities like mine, Kuku B in Kajiado County, that are eager to have our lands legally recognised under the Act.

The Land Secretary has not yet developed and rolled out a national programme for public education and awareness, which would better enable communities to prepare for registration. Additionally, the Land Secretary has also failed to develop an adjudication programme or gazette Community Land Registration Units as required by the Land Registration Act, 2012.

According to the law, these things should have been done within three years of the enactment of the Act. Most importantly, the Land Secretary has not yet deployed community land registrars to the counties, making it nearly impossible for communities like mine to register our land claims, even though we have done everything the law requires us to do.

Women and men from Kuku B, with the support of Illaramatak Community Concerns (ICC) and Namati, have developed community by-laws and are working to update their registers, harmonized boundaries, and elected a Community Land Management Committee.

We ensured that our by-laws included rules relating to membership and rights, natural resource management, and governance. Building consensus on these issues was not an easy process. It involved numerous community meetings with guidance from paralegals.

Our community recently completed Community Land Act Form 1, which is an application for official government recognition of our interest/claim on community land. The forms need to be submitted to the community land registrars, but they have not been deployed yet by the Ministry of Land — despite a commitment in the law to have them in place by now.

Without registration, community lands will be considered unregistered land and held by the county government in trust. This means that county governments will receive compensation on behalf of communities, and will manage and govern the land for the communities.

This is a step back to the era of the defunct county and municipal councils, where mismanagement of community land was a norm.

For women, previously left out in the governance of community land due to social and cultural beliefs, the delay by the ministry steals the joy of being a part of an inclusive land governance system envisioned in the Community Land Act. It further means the continuous exclusion of women in the community land register and further exclusion in decision-making.

As a member of Kuku B who has been supporting my community meet the requirement of the law, I demand that the Cabinet Secretary of the Ministry of Land appoints and deploys Community Land Registrars as soon as possible. This will enable the registration of my community land and that of other communities in Kenya. My hope and that of Kuku B community is that the recently approved national budget has allocated resources for the implementation of the Community Land Act as a way to uphold the Constitution and realise the government’s priority agenda.