Experts want land laws debate extended

February 14, 2012
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Land ownership debate to continue/FILE

, NAIROBI, Kenya, Feb 14 – An organisation specialising in research and tracking implementation of land reforms in the country has called for an extension of a constitutional deadline for enactment of new land related laws by six months.

The Executive Director of the Land Development and Governance Institute (LDGI) Mwenda Makathimo said on Tuesday that the February 26 constitutional deadline when Parliament should pass the Bills is inadequate for thorough scrutiny of the proposed laws.

Makathimo expressed fears that the quality of the Bills on land may be compromised due to pressure to meet deadlines.

“It is of concern that little time has been made available for the audit and interrogation of provisions of these laws. We have had 18 months (since promulgation of the Constitution in August 2010) yet the Bills have been brought for enactment within 12 days of the deadline. Since time for interrogating them is constrained the quality of legislation is under threat,” he warned.

Parliament resumed business on Tuesday after the Christmas break and immediately passed a procedural Motion seeking to reduce the publication period of key Bills including those on land.

Three Bills on land which were approved by the Cabinet last Thursday and which are expected to overhaul and streamline land management and administration are expected to be tabled, debated and passed within the next 12 days.

The National Land Commission Bill 2012, The Land Bill 2012 and The Land Registration Bill 2012 have to be enacted by February 26.

Makathimo said that the Bills in their current form have fundamental departure from the objectives of the Land Policy and need amendments to serve the purposes envisaged in the policy.

“You cannot enact such important legislation under duress; people must know that comprehensive implementation of the reforms will be undermined. It is like we want to serve a deadline and not the principles of the Constitution as well as guidelines of the land policy,” he said.

Among the sections that the Institute wants amended in the National Land Commission Bill include the composition of the selection panel that will choose members of the National Land Commission (NLC).

“The panel which will constitute members of the NLC does not have representation from any professional body not even from the Institute of Surveyors, the Institute of Planners or the Law Society of Kenya. The Bill as it is already not respecting competencies when the subject matter is highly technical,” he emphasised.

LDGI wants the Ministry of Land’s mandate restricted to formulation of policy and be completely delinked from service delivery owing to the past corruption and inefficiency.

The National Land Commission Bill gives effect to the constitutional provision that has established the National Land Commission as well as the objects and principles of devolved government in land management and administration.

The commission shall consist of a chairman and members who will serve for a non-renewable term of six years.

Its functions include alienation of public land and approval of the national and county government, monitoring registration of all rights and interests in land and developing and maintaining an effective land information management at both the national and county levels.

Makathimo said that research conducted by his institute registered discontent and discomfort from the civil society with regard to the manner in which the Ministry of Lands had been handling the land reform implementation process.

The institute however commended the move by the Cabinet last week to freeze all disposal of public land including new grants and renewal of leases until the establishment of the National Land Commission.

The institute further expressed support for the Cabinet’s call for the review of all grants of public land and lease extensions processed during the long transition period.

According to LDGI Chairman Ibrahim Mwathane, if such grants are found to have been irregularly made, the land should be reverted to the respective county or the national government through the land commission.

Mwathane said: “Where leases are found to have been irregularly extended or determined, necessary remedy should be provided and officers found to have been behind such irregularities punished as the cases merit.”

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