Parliament orders Wilson security probe

August 5, 2009 12:00 am

, NAIROBI, Kenya, Aug 5 – Parliament has asked the Ministry of Transport to investigate security and safety concerns surrounding the Wilson Airport.

Temporary Speaker Margaret Kamar made the ruling after Ikolomani MP Bonny Khalwale asked the Transport Assistant Minister Harun Mwau to confirm whether the ministry had received complaints from pilots over the encroachment of the airport’s land.

The MP claimed that over 50 letters had been written to the Kenya Airports Authority mostly highlighting the rapid spread of the Kibera slums and the upcoming construction of a hotel and other high rise buildings around the airport.

“The Minister is not articulating the truth on the ground because we all know of the development. Can he tell us none of the constructions around the airport are hindering its operations?” Dr Khalwale posed.

However, Mr Mwau insisted that his office had not received any complaints on the matter.

“First the hotel is beyond by-pass 1.4, besides if the complaint is on the structures the ministry and KAA doesn’t control the allocation of land. We ensure that no building goes beyond the required height,” he said.

Earlier, Mr Mwau had told Parliament that the airport was not under any threat of closure as it had met security and safety regulations provided by the International Civil Aviation Organization and Federal Aviation Administration circulars.

“Wilson airport is not under threat of closure; no failures have been reported in the running of the airport. Everything meets the standard security regulation,” he said. “Including the perimeter fencing which has been redone by the National Youth Service, the flight terminal and air control facilities have been modernised and is operational.”  

Meanwhile, Parliament has commenced debate on a Motion that seeks to have the government adopt a uniform land title policy for agricultural settlement schemes.

The Private Member’s Motion which was introduced by Marakwet West MP Boaz Kaino seeks to harmonise land tenures and to do away with the government granted leases ranging from 99 to 999 years in settlement area and freehold titles to others.

Mr Kaino and Kimili MP Simuyu Eseli argued that by allowing farmers to own land would facilitate enhanced agricultural output as they will be able to access credit facilities to improve their yield.

Mr Kaino said: “Land is the source of all problems in the country brought up from the time of colonisation through the Crown Ordinance Act 1902 and 1924 and which is still operational 45 years after independence; this is not supportive for farmers, there are legislations that need to be harmonised.”

“The concern is on the uniformity especially for farmers. It is sad Kenya has vast tracts of uncultivated land and we are starving,” he said.

“Why are we having several classes of citizens where some are preferred over others in ownership of land? There must be a familiar tenure system where people can hold land in different style,” Dr Eseli said. 

Lands Minister James Orengo said it was not possible to issue freehold titles citing the areas like the Coastal and Rift Valley where squatters had often sold land soon after receiving titles from government.

“We have had problems with the Coast and Rift Valley where genuine landless people are assisted to get land and as soon as you give them freehold title to settle, they end up selling it or leasing it out for one reason or another  so that they can move to another scheme claiming they are land less,” he said.

Motion was amended by deleting sections that would have required the government to convert all the leases to freeholds after the Lands Minister explained that all settlement schemes by virtue of being government land was on freehold basis as provided in the Agriculture Act.

Mr Orengo said the ministry is currently working on a Sessional Paper on the Land Policy that will see the introduction of a clause barring squatters who received titles of government purchased land from selling it until after 10 years have lapsed.

“We cannot give out freeholds in urban and settlement schemes that is why we are being held hostage because as long as someone turns land held to freehold we cannot touch him due to the entirety of the action,” he said.


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