Revocation or amendment – Has Isiolo County Government abandoned its people?
By Ali Edin and Mohamed Haji
In recent years Isiolo has witnessed the increased encroachment on its land and muted debate over the sensitive issue. This has escalated over the past weeks after a legal notice was released by the Ministry of Lands setting up the whole of Isiolo County as an adjudication area. The County Government who are trustees of community land in Isiolo then paid a visit to the Cabinet Secretary Hon. Farida Karoney and requested an amendment to the legal notice in order to reduce the coverage area for the adjudication process. Other elected and nominated national assembly members from the county led by Hon. Fatuma Dullo (Isiolo County Senator) came out strongly to oppose the legal notice and called for its complete revocation. Their concerns are the fact that there are too many land disputes in Isiolo and if the adjudication is implemented, Isiolo people stand to lose large tracts of land. As of now, Burat ward residents are in court contesting against illegal encroachment of their land by the Kenya Defence Force, there are unresolved border disputes between us and our neighbors (both Meru and Garissa) and setting up the whole County for adjudication is ill-advised and ill-timed. A proper land registration system is a must for a proper adjudication procedure to exist and with the level of corruption in the Lands ministry there is a genuine cause for worry.
For clarity, Land adjudication is “the process of final and authoritative determination of the existing rights and claims of people to land.” One may ask how much we can trust the national government with its colonial land philosophy as regards NFD to be that authoritative determiner and have the final say on land in Isiolo. There is a bleak history behind our land problems and while the country at large grapples with the land grabbing demons, its a lot bleaker for Northern Kenya. It is worth remembering that prior to the colonial rule, communities in Kenya had their own leadership structures that administered land rights among their members for purposes of activities such as the construction of shelter, farming, grazing, hunting, and gathering. Communities lived in harmony and occasional fights over territorial claims were resolved by panels of elders. The colonial government not only imposed alien land tenure relations but also introduced conceptual, legal and sociological confusion in traditional tenure systems. This led to a far-reaching disruption of African customary land tenure systems and laws. Europeans in Kenya enjoyed the privilege of secure land tenure from 1901 when the registration of Documents Act was formulated, followed closely in 1902 by the Crown Landordinance. This resulted in a situation where whites owned secure title to land while Africans had insecure ownership that could be interfered with by the whites at will. This dual land ownership system, however, started receiving attention from 1923, especially after the controversial ruling by Chief Justice Berth that‘African were merely tenants of the state and that their absolute claim on the land they occupied had been annulled by the Crown LandsOrdinance 1915, the Kenya Annexation Order-in-Council 1921and Kenya Colony Order-in-Council 1921’. In the main, the post-colonial administration had a similar approach to land issues in NFD and its this dark history that informs the reactions of the denizens whenever the emotive land issue comes up. The land Ministry not only failed in sensitizing the locals on the adjudication process, but its actions also raise eyebrows. Its approach is that of a land grabber and its what rattles the locals.
Why is Isiolo County Chief pushing hard for an amendment to the legal notice and not asking for a full revocation of the adjudication process which is replete with dangers beggars belief? Is there a sinister move behind the amendment? And if there is who is benefitting?
The promulgaters of the new constitution in 2010 went a step further to classify land under Article 61-62 as; public, community or private. This gave a right to the locals and especially marginalized communities to have a right over their land. The Community Land Act of 2016 went ahead and provided for; the recognition, protection, registration of community land rights, management and administration of community land, and the role of county governments in relation to unregistered community land. In addition, the Act gave the communities opportunities to collectively use and manage land communally owned by forming community assemblies and community land management committees. This would eventually give a right to the community to freely enter agreements with investors to enable environmental, economic and social impact assessment, land rehabilitation, capacity building and transfer of technology.