Kenya’s economic blueprint, Vision 2030, identifies infrastructure as one of the cornerstones upon which the country shall achieve the goal of becoming a middle-income economy.
This infrastructure component is what guided the previous and current administrations to always include such projects in their agenda of development.
As a result, we have in the past decade seen the expansion of the Thika Road and opening up of new bypasses in Nairobi and on the Coast and the lake region, and the completion of the A2 highway up to the border town of Moyale in Marsabit County.
Other major infrastructure development projects in the same period include the Standard Gauge Railway, the Lamu Port South Sudan Transport Corridor Project, and the Lake Turkana Wind Power Project.
One theme that has been recurring in the undertaking of all these projects is that of compensation for land acquired by the government.
Issues affecting compensation include delayed monetary compensation, differences over valuation of land by the government and the valuation as per independent valuers hired by land owners, and the high cost of compensation for land that in many instances increases the cost of these projects.
There have also been cases of politicians with access to information on the routes government projects will take buying land from poor Kenyans and benefiting from compensation at higher valuation of the land once the project implementation begins.
On August 2, the President assented to the Land Value Index (Amendment) Act, 2019 into law.
The law amends the Land laws enacted in 2012 and the IDPs Act enacted in the same year to give more direction on how the government shall undertake compulsory acquisition of land for public enterprise.
First, the law gives a new definition of ‘prompt’ as used in reference to prompt compensation, by directing that compensation should be made to the owner of the land within one year of the National Land Commission taking possession on behalf of a government body.
For the purposes of valuation to guide compensation, the Lands Ministry shall in the coming months lead the development of a Land Value Index that that will show the given values of land within a given geographical area at a specific time.
For those who are considered to be occupying land in good faith but do not hold the title to it, compensation shall be assessed based on the number of persons who have been on the land for an uninterrupted six years before the date of the notice.
Considerations will also be made for the developments on the land to be acquired.
For freehold land (private land), the compensation will consider developments on the land as long as the owner can prove they were not developing the land in anticipation of the government declaring interest.
These provisions are intended to discourage land speculation which has in the past inflated the cost of infrastructure projects.
It’s also worth noting that compensation can be in form of an alternative parcel of land, government bond, or equity shares in a government-owned entity.
For instance, when land owners disagree with the valuation of their land, they can appeal to the Land Acquisition Tribunal established under this law.
Additionally, it is illegal to divulge information on government’s plans to acquire land in a way that will influence buying of the said land with an intention to benefit from the compensation thereafter.
Washe Kazungu,land and natural resource management specialist.