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The Land Question: Kenya geared towards formulation of a National Engagement Strategy

This September, Kenya starts the move towards setting up a multi-stakeholder platform for engagement on land. The aim is to foster positive discourse and decisive actions towards the goal of people centred land governance in Kenya.

Kenya based members of the International Land Coalition, under the coordination of ELCI, will work together to eventually establish a National Engagement Strategy. The International Land Coalition is a global coalition of mainly civil society and intergovernmental organizations working together to improve land governance.

Land is a natural resource that elicits a myriad of thoughts, both positive and negative, in Kenya. Land issues are considered emotive, with a high regard placed on ownership, access and control.

The country remains beleaguered by various problems associated with land governance, both at the family level and in commercial terms. Land grabbing, absentee landlords, squatting, family land disputes, boundary disputes, ethnic conflicts fuelled by competition for land based natural resources and unregistered land, are some of the issues Kenyans grapple with daily.

Furthermore, commercial investments continue to present many unprepared Kenyans with pleasant and not so pleasant surprises. The extractives industry, for instance, is often characterised by alienation of large parcels of land and associated displacement of communities. Not to forget that majority of the land problems have a history that can be traced to colonial and post-colonial eras.

Kenya has recently made great strides in improving land governance, albeit with challenges. After the historic promulgation of the Constitution of Kenya 2010, various progressive land laws have been enacted. These include the Land Act 2012, National Land Commission Act 2012, Land Registration Act 2012, and the Environment & Land Court Act 2012. Other legislations enacted in 2016 include the Community Land Act and the Land Laws (Amendment) Act. Apart from the push to meet constitutionally defined timelines for enacting these laws, the changes have been characterised by the continuous clamour for land reforms – both in terms of legislation and sustainable management of natural resources. These changes are supposed to help Kenya manage its land, which is classified as private, public and community.

The NES formulation will be based on complementarity of capacities and reciprocity of various actors. The development and adoption of the NES in Kenya will give direction and a constructive space for coordinated dialogues and actions despite there being diverse perspectives and actors.