NAIROBI, September 10 – A taskforce bringing together six non-state actors in the land sector on Wednesday demanded that Lands Minister James Orengo table the National Land Policy before the Cabinet for approval and conversion into a Sessional paper.,
Led by the chairman of the Institute of Surveyors of Kenya Mwenda Makathimo, the group also demanded that the National Land Policy Sessional Paper be given priority by Parliament immediately the House reconvenes next month.
He said: “The Lands Minister, literally in every forum he addresses promises that the Cabinet paper will soon be forwarded. But this soon never comes. We want the paper presented to the Cabinet forthwith.”
Kenya Land Alliance co-ordinator Odenda Lumumba said the land reforms agenda should be given an implementation time frame as it risked being sidelined by politics ahead of the 2012 elections and the constitution review process.
Groups represented in the team that encompasses members of the private sector, NGOs and experts co-operating in the land sector included the Pamoja Trust, Shelter Forum, Kenya Land Alliance, Kenya Private Sector Alliance and Haki Jamii.
“We are very worried that the window is being slammed shut, however if we leave the land issue the way it has always been, the year 2012 will not be rosy. What saw will be child’s play because you cannot keep people waiting forever,” he said.
Lumumba said Kenya was lagging behind countries such as Rwanda and Uganda which already had their land policies in place despite having started their processes after Kenya.
The taskforce argues that the ongoing planning for the metropolitan and resettlement of the IDPs and illegal occupiers of the Mau Summit will be in vain without a clear policy to regulate land use.
The development of the draft policy began four years ago with the input from the government, civil society, academics and other stakeholders.
It is the proposals in the draft land policy that will inform the provisions of the chapter on land in the proposed new constitution. These proposals are yet to undergo Cabinet and parliamentary scrutiny.
Mwathane who is also the KEPSA land sector board chairman said the policy called for repeal of the principle of absolute sanctity of title of first registration under the Registered Land Act, to protect against unscrupulous persons laying stake to land that was not theirs and once registered, invoke this provision.
It also bars non-citizens from owning freehold interests but allows them or their companies to acquire 99 years leasehold instead of 999 year leases.
Mwathane said the policy was being blocked by individuals who are opposed to the proposed taxation of idle land and application of capital gains tax which deter accumulation of idle land for speculation.
“Capital gains are those directly attributable to state intervention in providing services like roads, water and power. Land values in areas without these services skyrocket soon after provision. Where such services are directly provided by the state, it is proposed that a small percentage tax be levied to land transfers, indexed to the gains in value attributable to the services provided. This helps to provide capital for rolling out service provision,” Mwathane explained.