New law to give marginalised Kenyan communities land titles
02 September 2016, 21:07
Nairobi (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Impoverished
nomadic communities across Kenya are to receive land titles
under a new law that experts hope will help end land conflicts,
boost development and improve investor relations.
The Community Land Bill, signed into law by Kenya's
President Uhuru Kenyatta on Aug. 31, lays out the steps for
communities to acquire titles to their ancestral land.
Around two-thirds of Kenya's land is customarily owned by
communities without formal title deeds, making it easy for
corrupt individuals to sell or lease the land without the
"This is very important," Shadrack Omondi, executive
director of the Resource Conflict Institute, told the Thomson
Reuters Foundation in a phone interview.
"Without a legal framework... community land rights have
Nomadic herding communities in Kenya's marginalised arid and
semi arid areas have been especially vulnerable because they
leave their land vacant when they migrate in search of water and
"People would see that land as empty," said Omondi. "Through
corrupt means, they start subdivision and all manner of things
and before you realise, the communities have lost their land."
The government is hopeful that recent discoveries of oil and
coal, much of it on community land, will reduce poverty in these
areas and help Kenya attain middle-income status by 2030.
But several projects have become bogged down in disputes
over land ownership and benefit sharing with local communities.
The Lake Turkana Wind Power project, Africa's largest single
wind farm, and the county government were sued in 2014 by
residents who alleged the land was leased without consultation.
The company said it held numerous public meetings and
received a leasehold from the local government.
The court did not issue orders to stop the project, which
should be completed by December, the government said.
Also in Turkana, Tullow Oil halted work in 2013 because of
violent protests by locals demanding more jobs and other
A $144 million wind power project in central Kenya was
cancelled in February due to disputes with residents over land
Under the new law, community members must meet to choose a
land management committee, register themselves and agree the
boundaries of their land with government officials before
receiving title deeds.
Questions remain over the implementation of the act as land
is an explosive political issue in Kenya and has been one of the
main drivers of conflict since independence in 1963.
Politicians have illegally granted vast tracts of public
land to themselves and their allies, ignoring numerous
government inquiries calling for their titles to be revoked.
"What is the willingness to implement?" asked Odenda
Lumumba, national coordinator of Kenya Land Alliance advocacy
"What land reforms have shown us worldwide in the recent
past is that where the ruling elites have been challenged by
citizenry to enact (reform)... they have gone ahead to block the
land reforms through implementation."
The government must allocate sufficient resources to support
communities in realising their rights to land, he said.