Opinion Pieces

Kenya’s four-year land reform agenda paying off
By Jennifer Wambua
Although the land issue remains thorny in the country, especially during an election period, like
this year, there is renewed hope that the reforms so far implemented by the National Land
Commission (NLC) have addressed the many concerns that relate to the often touchy land
Indeed, there is clear evidence that despite various challenges that have dogged the Commission
and at times threatening its very survival, it has made significant progress in dealing and resolving
most of the concerns raised by Kenyans particularly in relation to the restoration of public land
that had been grabbed.
Most of the reforms so far undertaken have helped lower and minimize the high tensions and
conflicts that have been witnessed previously in different parts of the country, where different
communities have visited violence on each other due to unresolved historical injustices associated
with land.
Such situations have at times got worse and grown out of control when some of our leaders take
advantage of them to gain political mileage whenever such conflicts occur.
In fact some of our politicians have the habit of raising and using issues touching on land as
campaign tools, but as soon as they are elected they abandon the agenda only to resurrect the same
during the subsequent electioneering period.
Obviously we are likely to witness more of such politicians this year as Kenyans prepare for the
August poll.
But as NLC continues to execute its mandate the scenario has steadily changed and there may be
never enough fodder for use during campaigns because a number of the concerns have either been
addressed or are in the process of being resolved.
Therefore, even as land still remains one of the most emotive and at times very divisive subject
that threatens to polarize the country, there is light at the end of the tunnel that with adequate
political goodwill and other forms of support NLC would eventually solve most of the contentious
land related matters.
Indeed the fact that NLC is seeking to cultivate a good working relationship with Ministry of
Lands and Physical Planning and other relevant government agencies is an indication that the land
reform agenda is on course and it is only a matter of time before all the stakeholders witness a fully
transformed sector.
Although the issue of land has been the cause of much violent conflicts throughout Kenya’s
colonial and post-colonial history, the coming into existence of NLC, thanks to the New
Constitution, is bound to reverse this negative trend.
Regarded as the most radical and potentially transformative, the National Land Policy of 2009 that
was approved by parliament and on which NLC is founded has helped establish a strong basis for
continued land sector reforms. The fact that the policy is embedded in the Constitution is a
guarantee that the ongoing reforms and changes within the sector are unstoppable.
As an independent Commission NLC is mandated to manage public land on behalf of the National
and County governments, initiate investigations into present or historical land injustices and
recommend appropriate redress, and monitor and have oversight responsibilities over land use
planning throughout the country. No doubt, this is a mandate the Commission has so far ably
The Commission’s staff and partners have consistently demonstrated resilience in the face of
challenges and even discouragement emanating from powerful land cartels and those wanting to
retain the status quo. Although the future looks promising, it is important to point out that the
journey NLC has embarked on is not short of thorns, in fact its treacherous and at times very
dangerous as resistance to accept change still remains very strong.
But the Commission is determined to deliver on its mandate with the hope that it will surmount all
the barriers. Our strength is largely drawn from ordinary Kenyans, who have wholeheartedly
supported its cause.
In fact members of the public, through NLC, have a forum through which they share their views
on how best the country’s land should be managed. They also have access to information and other
details on land buying and titling which was previously not easily available.
The Commission’s resolve is to ensure that the public is fully in a position to make clearly
informed choices as regards to land. The Commission therefore wants all Kenyans and foreigners
seeking to buy or invest in land to be fully informed and able to make the right decisions. This is
why the Commission is focusing on promoting land rights, building informed communities, investing
in improved land governance and fostering conflict resolution on land matters at both levels of
governments, national and County.
Indeed it is this resolve and determination to deliver to Kenyans as per its mandate in an otherwise
very hostile environment that won the Commission the coveted Global Diamond Excellence
Award for Excellence and Commitment.
The Author is a Deputy Director, Communication and Advocacy
National Land Commission.

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