Land boss calls for truce between investors and Counties

By David Njagi

County governments may have stirred tensions with investors by passing their own land laws without consultation, the National Lands Commission (NLC) said during a Land and Natural Resources conference.

According to NLC chairman Muhammad Swazuri, some of these laws passed within Counties could stall progress made in engaging the public in land reforms, as leaders and investors struggle to control community resources.

“While we want investors to invest everywhere we do not also want them to be affected by draconian, or laws which are impeding,” said Mr. Swazuri.” On the other hand, investors should not subjugate the powers of the County governments and even the local communities.”

Sporadic conflicts have flared in Counties that have discovered mineral finds, while those on the fringes of Nairobi city have clashed with property developers over land.

Lobby groups have linked such flare ups to hasty passing of County laws without the participation by the public. In most instances, the public is not even aware of activities that are going on within their communities, they said.

“These investment projects risk being rejected by the public if they were not involved in the formation of community land law,” said Felicia Odada of ACT, formerly PACT Kenya.

Over exploitation and degradation of land can be avoided if the community involved in land reforms, she said.

“We have encouraged Counties to discuss with us and other stakeholders before they pass their laws to ensure they are aligned with the Constitution of Kenya,” said Mr. Swazuri.

Alternative dispute resolution systems on land may prove useful within Counties because they are leaner, optimists say.

But such systems have to be anchored on a legal jurisdiction process.

“Paralegals can help in the drafting of pleadings on land cases,” said Justice Boaz Olao, of the High Court of Kenya.

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About seventysixthstreet

Science and human rights journalist, Kenya
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