Kenya’s largest land owners: The genesis of the land problems in Kenya
Three of Kenya’s current and former first families own the majority of land in Kenya starting with the Kenyatta family, the Moi family and the Kibaki family.
Land in Kenya has always been a political issue in every election period and it should not come as a shock that majority of those who own the largest chunk of Kenya’s total arable land are serving politicians or powerful people with political connections.
Others who own large tracts of land amidst millions of Kenyans who are either languishing in poverty or have no land at all are foreign settlers who made the country their home after colonialism.
According to Otsieno Namwaya, in his exclusive feature in the East African Standard in 2004 touching on land matters in Kenya, the Kenyatta family alone owns an estimated 500, 000 acres of land which according to the ministry of Lands is the equivalent of the entire Nyanza Province.
It is amazing that most of the land owned by the few large land owners in Kenya form the biggest share of the 17.2% of arable land that Kenya has within its borders. The rest of the country is either considered arid or semi- arid.
13 percent of Kenyans are said to be absolutely landless while 67 per cent of the population live in land which is just about an acre each.
Indeed, the Mombasa Republican Council at the coast and many other outlawed groups like the Mungiki are the result of poverty occasioned by landlessness and disenfranchisement. It is also widely held that the youth in the Rift Valley were easily mobilized to cause mayhem in 2008 after the botched general elections because of the land issues that have always been swept under the carpet by successive regimes.
The irony of it all is that those who are expected to solve this problem are the large landowners themselves who also control government and command very powerful political authority in the country.
All the land that was acquired fraudulently before independence was legally allocated to those who took it away from the poor Kenyans by the Independence Constitution which was authored by the government of Kenyatta.
It is no surprise that Beth Mugo, who is the niece to the founding president Jomo Kenyatta, is one of the biggest land owners in Kenya and is also in government. Uhuru Kenyatta, the son of the former president is also vying to be the next president of Kenya.
To solve the historical land injustices, the National Land Commission has been set up with the mandate to review all title deeds, establish how they were acquired and give recommendations for remedial action in cases where it believes the land was not acquired fairly. It will be up to the government to ensure that the recommendations are acted upon.
However, considering that the Ndungu report on land has never been acted upon years after completion and the Mau resettlement attracted massive resistance from the powers that be and continues to be a political weapon, the fight for justice when it comes to land will be a bruising one.
NLC will also have powers to establish a national data bank on all aspects of land ownership and transactions, collect revenue on behalf of Government, review and resolve all historical injustices including repossession of public land stolen by individuals over the years.
Land injustices in Kenya have a long history right from before colonialism to the present day post colonialism era. Kenya is about to mark 50 years of self governance yet the African government that took over leadership perpetrated ills that are still being protected to date by the same elite who benefited from the underhand schemes to rob millions of Kenyans off their livelihoods.
Several public records are available detailing how individuals acquired land fraudulently during the period when the land under white colonial settlers was being transferred back to the indigenous owners. Some of the names that have been mentioned in relation to this include Chief Samuel Koriata of Narok South, the Kenyatta Family, the Moi Family, Mwai Kibaki’s family, Dr. Julius Kiano a former Commerce and Industry minister, former Permanent Secretary Robert Ouko, former Butere MP Martin Shikuku, Musa sirma, Margaret Kamar, Lee Njiru among others.
It is no surprise that during the referendum for the new constitution, the issue of land was one of the most controversial issues that was discussed by the two camps opposed and in support of it. The impious grabbing of land in Kenya has not only led to poverty in the country but it has also resulted in destruction of critical water catchment areas, siltation of the major hydro electric dams and bitter ethnic rivalries.