Legal Notice 150 is Bigger Than Isiolo
By Adan Kabelo
Reading the arguments over LN 150 by professionals from the county is quite depressing. I wonder if these professionals truly understand the gravity of the matter or for them it’s all about countering others’ opinion. May be some are too young to understand that this notice is the second attempt to open up Isiolo county for grabs. The first scramble for isiolo was in the 90s when the leaders then gazetted a notice that made isiolo be openly balloted space for plots by any Tom Dick and Harry from all over the world. This was unprecedented act that was unfair to the locals. Remember the late Jafar Tupi firmly protected the issuance of plots during his tenure because it will disadvantage the locals who by then were considering Isiolo as foreign to them. He had to be removed from the helm of the council to open up the town for the rest. Where else on earth have you heard land being balloted like gambling? This notice is the second avenue for further gambling beyond the towns now. Because it’s unacceptable to openly say so, the proponents are sugar coating with terms like amendments and dangling fear of losing plots in towns. History is full of people who fell prey to such manipulations and disappeared from their ancestral home. The masaais you all know have not been displaced from Enkare (Nairobi) by guns or force. They were duped by smooth talkers like we are hearing today. The question we should be asking is who asked CS lands to adjudicate Isiolo and what was the motive? Why not other counties like in NEP? Did Isiolo community in their public participation forums prioritise issuance of titles? Where are the minutes and when /who said it? It is dishonest to say we don’t need titles but we must not be threatened and blinded to the bigger loss of the society. We have lived without it for 50 years so what’s the rush now. Can’t we get first things done first. We secure community land instead of our small plots first. This second scramble comes at a time when a resort city, lappset corridor is all planned out in isiolo without our knowledge. This should worry us more. It amazes me how professionals would bank their confidence on an amendment which they haven’t seen yet. They even fail to see that the first notice went out behind their back. If the proponents are honest, why are they calling clan fanatics and supporters instead of engaging with leaders elected by people. Remember we lost an opportunity to market Marti as a constituency because of such division. Are we witnessing similar loss again? In my view, the division will ultimately make us lose. Professionals must use their time to stop the divide and create alternative avenues for sober engament. It’s laughable that our people are being told they will get loans, when the rest of the world is actually suffering because of those loans. Just because our people are poor they should not be cheated and led into traps that will eventually see them lose their plots to auctioneers.
I can say without fear of contradiction that pastoralist communities of Isiolo not only view the LN 150 with lots of suspicion but deliberately designed to displace them . This fear is real and cannot be wished away through coercion, carrot and stick. Many believe even the purported amendment is just a ploy to hoodwink the community to swallow the bait like a fish before it is removed from the water and rendered helpless once it lands on the soil. The urgency and determination with which this adjudication is being pushed is abnormal and has all the hallmarks of wider deceitful motive. Some people will dismiss this fear but I urge everyone to pause and reflect on it folks. It cannot be all about titles really. Title ni nduano tu.
In my view, the threat is even bigger than Isiolo. I am not good at swahili but there is a saying ‘ukiona mwenzako ananyolewa, tia yako maji pia’. The entire Northern region occupied by the pastoralists community have reasons to raise their antennae and get interested in this notice. I believe Isiolo is a testing ground because of obvious reasons of proximity to powerful communities interested with land here and also the upcoming multi billion investment of LAPPSET. However, once it succeeds here, the notice will eventually be expanded to the entire region and this is why we must reach out to north eastern, upper eastern and Turkana leaders and professionals. It is common knowledge that conservationists like NRT and private land investors are preying on this region because there is no space on the other parts of the country. If local communities are given power to determine land ownership, the land cartels fear they will be locked out. Therefore, using stale laws to take over community land is the simplest option. The schemers will achieve their goals by dividing us along tribes, politics and even clans. Eventually, none of us wins, we shall all sink together. Pastoralists have no boundaries when it comes to grazing their animals. Last drought season, Isiolo pastoralists were in Ethiopia, Duales camels were in Isiolo, Marsabit cows were in Chari.
Those eying this land, see it as an open space to invest/grab. Years to come, our only grazing space will be along the tarmac road with private electric fence restricting access to pasture on either side of the road. This is what Oltorobo community near Oldonyiro is facing today for those who visited Doldol. It is not therefore unfounded fear, it is real.
In my experience as a development worker, any development that doesn’t involve the people it is supposed to develop, is not their development. My development must respect my views. Just like Kenya constitution took many years of debate and consultation, this land issue is as important as the constitution so it should not be rushed. Politicians come and go but the decision we make today lasts for generations to come. We must not fall in the trap of US and THEM. We need to engage the entire region leaders on this debate. Scholars from the region must come out with positions to guide the society. Governors of Marsabit, Turkana, Mandera, Wajir and Garissa must not wet their hair but must protect Isiolo from the shave.
afaan sunin dham nyad!!
Mr Kabelo is a Development Expert