Lands Minister James Orengo this week came out guns blazing when he declared that some 100 title deeds illegal, and used his executive authority to revert private property back to the government.
The minister as he put it “was acting in the interest of Kenyans.”
However the minister’s move raises several serious issues that require careful consideration.
Top on the list is the sanctity of the title deed. Whether we like it or not, most of the affected land owners have proof that they are legal owners of the pieces of land, which they acquired by following existing provisions in the law.
Each holder – it is presumed – was given a title deed after an elaborate legal process by a State organ – Commissioner of Lands – involving demarcation, surveying, beaconing and registration.
If by the stroke of a pen we deny the legal owners access to their land, we would be setting a dangerous precedent that will haunt us in future.
Imagine the chaos when a title deed is no longer respected and enforced by the Government that issued it.
If the plot in question was public land that had been grabbed by greedy people, the government should through the proper channel (read here as the court of law) try to get back the land otherwise the minister’s move is unconstitutional and could scare away potential investors.
It is also a clear signal that the government no longer believes in its own instructions. It’s baffling when you hear a man of such legal stature as James Orengo publicly make such a pronouncement.
I am not condemning the good minister but what I am saying here is that two wrongs do not make a right. What the minister is doing – even for a good cause – is illegal and he knows that. It will create fear and despondency as far as property ownership is concerned.
Get me right… I am not advocating land grabbing – grabbers are thieves and I detest them – but what I am saying is that we should stick to the law even when we are trying to protect public interest.
We must remember the government showed a similar move when it over Kenyatta International Conference Centre from KANU. That matter is still pending in court and indeed raised eyebrows from investors.
Let’s fight impunity and corruption but through due process. That way we will avoid anarchy and promote good governance. Mr Orengo needs to be patient, being a lawyer he knows the intricacies of law involved and due process must be upheld.
Even when a thief is caught stealing, he or she is taken through a court process before being pronounced guilty.
What will stop an ordinary Kenya from acting with such impunity and making his own “executive” orders if we go the Orengo way?