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Land still a thorny election issue a decade after violence

Kenya National Dialogue and Reconciliation (KNDR) forum set up by the African Union a decade ago following the disputed presidential election of December 2007 identified land reforms as one of ways of attaining peace in future.

Listed under the famous Agenda Four item of KNDR, which had other proposed action areas like tackling inequality and combating regional development imbalances, the AU panel headed by the former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan agreed that implementing the reforms would guarantee stability and justice.

The Truth Justice and Reconciliation Commission (TJRC) also makes a strong pitch for land reforms in its 2013 report although the 11th Parliament has been accused of dragging its feet to create structures for its implementation.

ACCUSATIONS

The fact that some prominent Kenyans have been accused of illegally amassing land has slowed down its implementation.

Accusations that some of them were brazenly able to get their names expunged from the document before it was made public has dogged former commissioners whose chairman Bethwel Kiplagat was buried last week.

“The government has to look into this problem (land problem) critically because millions have been impoverished by the land tenure system,” Mr Berhanu Dinka, a commissioner said five years ago.

It remains one of the most emotive subjects in the country’s politics less than two weeks to the General Election.

The reforms largely revolve around changing the overall tenure system, protecting public and private land and offering compensation to those whose land rights were violated.

IMPLEMENT

Last week, Deputy President William Ruto urged caution against implementation of the TJRC report, a government-sponsored inquiry into an array of historical injustices, which also touches on the land question, saying it stood the risk of opening up old wounds.

He was reacting to one of the promises by opposition presidential candidate Raila Odinga that should his coalition dislodge Jubilee from power, they plan to fully implement the TJRC report.

The TJRC report finds a close link between land injustices and ethnic violence in the country.

INSTITUTIONS

It also notes, “land-related injustices took many forms such as illegal takeover of individual and community land by public and private institutions; illegally hiving off public land and trust lands; preferring members of a specific ethnic group to benefit from settlement schemes and land grabbing by government officials.”

President Uhuru Kenyatta, in his 2015 State of the Nation address, issued a directive for the establishment of a Sh10 billion Restorative Justice Fund to be utilised over 3 years to provide relief to victims of past human rights violations, including settling the landless, but this was never followed up.

His government has however led an initiative to resettle those rooted out of their homes in the 2007/08 post-election violence.

Parastatal managers would find the firm’s land divided, allocated and title deeds given.

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