Land, family, child support rows most common in Kenya


Police arrive to stop members of Sirikwa Group Squatters from building structures on a farm they were in dispute with the late Mark Too in Uasin Gishu County on November 19, 2022, after the Court of Appeal upheld a ruling by the High Court in favour of the squatters to take over 25,000 acres land. PHOTO | JARED NYATAYA | NMG

Land, spousal and close family disputes, child custody, and support – make up the majority (87 percent) of disputes in Kenyan communities.

At 30 percent, land makes up for the largest percentage of matters under dispute in Kenya, followed by 23 percent involving partner and spouse, and 13 percent were child-related a Kenyan study conducted by the Katiba Institute and the University of Nairobi, as part of the Community-Based Justice Research (CBJR) Project shows.

The remaining dispute types relate to authorities, police action, physical assaults, and theft.

The three largest categories suggest their importance for family and community relations, although as the report emphasises, more needs to be understood about why people take action on certain disputes and less so on others to understand the true landscape of disputing behaviour.

According to Shelmith Maranya, an Advocate of the High Court of Kenya who also doubles as a Litigation and Dispute Resolution Associate at HMS Advocates, these findings are consistent with how emotive the land issue is in Kenya.

“This is mostly because 80 percent of the Kenyan population live in rural areas and derive their livelihood from the land. Its scarcity and the existing economic inequalities ameliorate the competition for land making it the cause of most family disputes and violence. Ethnicity clashes, colonialism, corruption, fraud, unethical professionals involved in land transactions and poor land policies and laws have played a significant role in causing these disputes,” she told the BDLife.

She said the law over the years has played a major role in reducing and solving land disputes. The 2010 Constitution, for instance, influenced the adoption of a new Land Regime altogether evidenced by the Land Act 2012, Land Registration Act, 2012 and Sectional Properties Act, 2020.

These have among others introduced the concepts of spousal consent, conclusiveness of the land register, and sectional ownership among other novel concepts which have resolved long-standing issues in land.

The study, Exploring Community-Based Services, Costs and Benefits for People-Centered Justice, aimed to understand a range of both formal and informal access to justice initiatives and institutions by studying a number of these initiatives and institutions.

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