NAIROBI, Kenya, Jun 4 – The National Land Commission (NLC) has begun the process of compulsory acquisition of land to be used for the construction of the Standard Gauge Railway.
Chairman Muhammad Swazuri indicated that the owners of the land will be compensated for their property.
The commission has already issued a notice of its intention to acquire an estimated 158 hectares of land for the construction of the controversial railway line between Mombasa and Nairobi.
“We are fully involved in the acquisition of land for the Standard Gauge Railway. We have had three visits to Mombasa and with the Kenya Railways, KPA and the Kenya National Highway Authority, we have identified the owners of those lands and they are going to be compensated,” he said.
He spoke during a meeting with reporters where he stressed the need for the Supreme Court to provide interpretation as to the roles of the commission and that of the Lands Ministry.
“We are having difficulties in the interpretation of the mandate as we know it and as the other people know it. Look at the mandate of the commission in all those legislations and look at the mandate of the ministry there and then tell us which one is following what. Things are not working properly because we feel there is misinterpretation of the law on the roles,” he stated.
The commission further emphasised the need for alternative dispute resolution mechanisms to be used before resorting to courts when resolving land issues.
Vice-Chairperson Abigael Mukolwe said that many of the land disputes are minor in nature and can be disposed of through dialogue between the parties involved.
She further described it as the most effective way of dispute resolution since it has been tried and tested with time.
“We appreciate that we have the Land and Environment Court in place but I can tell you that alternative dispute resolutions and traditional dispute resolutions provide faster ways of solving land problems. We have practiced it at the commission, we are encouraging it and we are promoting it,” she stated.
“Give a positive story that if you have a land problem, you do not need to fight or get pangas and bulldozers. We can sit down and agree on how land problems can be resolved.”
She pointed out that the commission has prepared its strategic plan which will enable it be more effective in its duties.
“As a commission, we believe in establishing a strong institution. Land management will be carried out through strong institutions not strong individuals because individuals come and go but strong institutions last the test of time and as a commission we are building a strong institution. We are putting in place our institutional framework… we are developing our policies,” she said.
The commission will further be moving half of its staff from Ardhi House to the adjacent ACK Bishops Annex.
Chief Executive Officer Tom Chavangi explained that this is in preparation of a rigorous recruiting exercise that the commission is due to undertake to increase its presence in the counties.
“The commission is also looking at a possibility of moving half of its staff members to ACK Bishop House because we are expanding very rapidly,” he stated.
He pointed out that by the time the commission is completely set up, it will have no rival and will administer over land effectively.
“We have a very big foot as a commission and I think that by the time we establish the whole commission maybe by the end of the year, it will be one of the biggest in Kenya maybe second only to the Teachers Service Commission because our staff load is going to be very huge.”