, NAIROBI, Kenya, Jun 22 – The National Cohesion and Integration Commission (NCIC) has told off the church for causing unnecessary anxiety among Kenyans with claims that the Article on Land in the proposed Constitution will create ethnic hostilities.
The Chairman of the NCIC Mzalendo Kibunjia said on Tuesday that the proposed law would address historical land injustices and look into ways of solving them.
He said that the recognition of community land on the basis of ethnicity, ancestral land and culture was not a potential justification for communities to evict others as alleged by the clergy.
“If you say it gives the legitimacy to kick out other communities, then everybody in this country should be kicked out because we all came in. We are all immigrants; none of the communities in this country were here 700 years ago. If we go by chasing everybody, this country will only belong to the Ogiek and the Ndorobos,” he said.
He was reacting to a statement by church leaders on Monday that the proposed law was likely to create disharmony in the country for recognising community land on the basis of ethnicity and culture.
Dr Kibunjia said addressing the historical land injustices would give Kenyans a chance to look into their heritage and foster national cohesion. He further discounted the allegations by the clergy, saying they were distorting the facts.
“Sometimes people just need to be told sorry when something went wrong. This is not new; it has happened elsewhere in the world and once admission of injustices had been done, people were not chased away. I think people are threatening each other and it’s not fair to this country,” he said.
He added that the proposed Constitution also contained a clause that would help Kenyans acknowledge and accept that some parcels of land had been improperly acquired.
“Look at the provision on Trust land in the Constitution; it acknowledges that land which does not belong to the government but has been dished out belongs to communities and the county councils are the custodians of such land,” he said.
The NCIC chairman also argued that the government could look into alternative ways of compensating people who had irregularly lost their land which did not amount to evictions.
“You cannot tell me that the only way to solve this is by chasing people out. We live together in a nation that has many tribes; we must therefore learn to co-exist and I repeat acknowledge the ancestral claims of people’s land,” he said.
Dr Kibunjia also asked religious and political leaders on both sides of the constitutional divide to conduct their campaigns truthfully and to stop twisting the contents of the proposed Constitution to advance their stance.
“We can only settle any fears by talking and explaining facts honestly. When we peddle lies on the Constitution we are not doing this country any good,” he said.
He cited America as an example of a country that had resolved historical land injustices by accepting the fact that Red Indians occupied North America before they were displaced, “That recognition satisfied the Red Indians in many ways. In Australia it is the same thing; when the immigrants who came in acknowledged that the land they occupied belonged to the Aborigines, there was no civil strife.”