, NAIROBI, Kenya, Aug 1 – Having expected us, he sits with a copy of the Constitution and the National Land Commission (NLC) Act open on his desk; ready to defend the action taken by President Uhuru Kenyatta on Thursday night.
The act of directing the Cabinet Secretary for Lands Charity Ngilu and the NLC to revoke and repossess half a million acres of land in Lamu county on the grounds that it was illegally alienated public land, “dispossessing individuals and families living in this region of their land and opportunities for improving their wellbeing.”
Skirting around the question of whether President Kenyatta could issue such a directive, the act itself — of revoking and repossessing land — NLC Chairman Muhammad Swazuri argues, falls within his commission’s purview.
“Section 14 of the NLC Act says the commission shall within five years of the commencement of this act, having commenced in 2012, on its own motion or upon a complaint by the national or county government, a community or individual, it shall review all grants or dispossessions of public land to establish their propriety or legality,” he reads out.
Ugunja Member of Parliament Opiyo Wandayi had deemed the directive unconstitutional for the reason that, “the President under the current Constitution has no power to direct an independent Constitutional Commission like the NLC.”
He went on to describe the repossession of the half a million acres of land in Lamu county as piecemeal given land injustices went well past its borders as detailed in a number of reports.
“There’s a lot of land grabbing that has happened in Taita Taveta county, Mombasa, Kwale. So you cannot start addressing this issue piecemeal, you must have a comprehensive approach,” he demanded.
A comprehensive approach Swazuri says the NLC is already working on in the form of a legislation geared at addressing historical land injustices.
“Remember the Commission is required to recommend a law to be enacted within two years, and therefore we have six months remaining, on historical injustices and once that one is passed we shall go for the others,” he defends.
Otherwise, he maintains, they will continue to work with Ngilu, as directed by President Kenyatta, to resolve the Lamu land question that has been blamed for the deaths of tens over the last few months.