Government’s efforts to resolve land management and adjudication continue to flounder despite lofty promises.
In 2009, under the Mwai Kibaki presidency, the government embarked on an aggressive campaign to digitise land records and automate transactions not just to achieve efficiency, but also to close loopholes through which it lost money from dubious land deals, and spare citizens from thieving and exploitative cartels.
On several occasions under President Kenyatta, widely publicised campaigns have been rolled out to streamline land management and stamp out criminal practices such as issuance of fake title deeds, grabbing of public land and extortion.
Earlier in the Jubilee administration, then-Lands Cabinet Secretary Charity Ngilu (now Kitui governor) mounted a public-spirited crusade to rid the ministry of cartels.
At one point, she closed the ministry to clean up the place and demolish the criminals.
Despite all that, land management remains problematic. Corruption, extortion, poor services, land grabbing and conmanship thrive at the ministry.
Land reforms have grounded to a halt for lack of strong political will to crack down on the cartels.
This is what has rattled the Law Society of Kenya, which has made a determination to petition Parliament to interrogate Lands Cabinet Secretary Farida Karoney to get to the depth of the rot therein.
Basically, land registries are a mess. Records have been falsified while bribery is rampant and service delivery appallingly poor.
There are many fake titles yet legitimate land owners don’t have papers. It is a cruel paradox perpetuated by a dysfunctional system.
Streamlining the land management system is pivotal to economic growth. Land is an essential factor of production.
It’s a critical feature in politics and social contexts. Thus, it’s vital to establish true owners of land and protect them from wheeler-dealers.
Failure to do so is a recipe for chaos as we have seen before. Land management has been a subject of discourse since pre-independence Kenya.
Land survey, allocation, adjudication and titling present a vexed challenge that defies simplistic solutions.
This explains why the current Constitution created a regime where it established an independent entity, National Land Commission (NLC), to manage land on behalf of the national and county governments.
Consequently, the Lands ministry was locked out of allocations, but designated to formulate policy and oversight. But this whole arrangement is not working.
The chaos at the Lands ministry must be tackled once and for all. The rot and the cartels must be dealt with ruthlessly.
It’s incredulous that the vices continue to thrive across administrations as if the perpetrators are invisible or untouchable.
This article was originally published on The Daily Nation.