, NAIROBI, Kenya Aug 21 – Parliament has approved a list of nine nominees selected by President Mwai Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga to serve in the National Land Commission to manage public land on behalf of the national and county governments.
The chairman of the Parliamentary Committee of Lands and National Resources Mutava Musyimi said the National Land Commission Act obliges the commission to develop some legal framework or law to resolve historical injustices in the country within two years of its operationalisation so that Parliament can take over.
The names of the proposed commissioners will now be submitted to President Kibaki for formal appointment.
The nine include: chairman Mohammed Swazuri, Tomiik Mboya Konyimbih, Silas Kinoti Muriithi, Rose Mumbua Musyoka, Samuel Kipng’etich Tororei, Abigael Mbagaya, Emma Muthoni Njogu, Clement Isaiah Lenachuru and Abdulkadir Adan Khalif.
The committee which vetted the nominees reinstated the nomination of Abdilkadir Khalif after Odinga objected to an attempt by the Office of President to replace his nomination of over security concerns after the National Security Intelligence Service claimed he held three passports (Kenyan, American and Somalia) and was involved with a political grouping in Somalia.
“We were not persuaded that there was sufficient clarity from the office that initiated the reservations,” Musyimi told Parliament.
National Heritage Minister William ole Ntimama and Defence Assistant Minister Joseph Nkaiserry opposed the names saying it was not representative pointing to members of the Maa community having not been included, given the issues surrounding the Maasai Community going back to the colonial times where they lost close to a million hectares which had never been repatriated.
“The Maa community feels discriminated. We have to talk loudly on this one. If there’s any community that has lost land, it is the Maa community. We lost over a million acres to the settlers. When they left, we never got our land back,” said Ntimama.
Nkaiserry said: “If you’re a chicken farmer, you’ve no business talking about cattle.”
Lands Minister James Orengo pointed out that the National Land Commission Act will also delve into the issue of historical injustices and ways of resolving them.
“This commission is so important. If it can deliver, then 60 percent of the issues that we face as a country will all be solved,” said Orengo.
He said his Ministry had already made room at Ardhi House for the commission, so that “nearly all the staff will fall under the National Land Commission”
MPs said the process of land reforms must be handled with caution and sobriety and Kenyans must therefore be told why the process of interviewing shortlisted candidates and why the list of 16 names for the position of member and two for the chair were not made public.
Ministers Amos Kimunya and Kiraitu Murungi supported the nominees but cried foul, claiming that the selection panel practiced ‘discrimination by reserve’ after it denied some ‘qualified lawyers a chance to serve in the commission.’
Gwassi MP John Mbadi and Nominated MP Racheal Shebesh intervened and urged the Deputy Speaker to compel the committee to tell the House and Kenyans how the candidates performed and the criteria used to list the nine nominees, adding that the whole process seems to have been marred with canvassing and horse-trading.
Murungi wanted the parliamentary committee to vet the nominees again to ascertain their competence in handling land policy and reform matters by establishing the track record of each of them.
During the debate, concerns that regional representation had been ignored played out, while Nominated MP Millie Odhiambo-Mabona claimed gender considerations showed bias against women, with only the minimum three listed yet there were more women who qualified.
MPs William Ruto, Danson Mungatana, Mabona and Shebesh lauded the composition of the commission but also appealed to the commissioners to “hit the ground running” and act on the land injustices and not ‘focusing on sideshows.’
“We hope the commissioners will not give the chairman a hard time. We don’t want sideshows. The ministry should set aside money for this team,” said Mungatana.