Lands minister James Orengo has said the ministry is ahead of schedule in preparing the legislation for the establishment of the National Land Commission, a critical body that will manage land for both national and county governments.
Two proposed legislations, the Land Registration and the Community Land Bills have been drafted as the ministry prepares to establish the Commission by February 27 next year, the minister said Tuesday.
Besides, the National Land Commission and Matrimonial Property Bills are with the Commission on the Implementation of the Constitution.
According to the transitional clauses, legislation on community land should be ready in five years.
“We already have a zero draft for the Community Land Bill whose timeline is five years because our desire is to have all these laws looked at together at the time of establishing the National Land Commission before end of February next year,” said Mr Orengo.
He, however, appealed to the public to be cautious of large private land owners whom he accused of working to sabotage the proposed land laws.
According to Mr Orengo, the large land owners have been feeding the public with wrong information about the Commission and the provisions set out in the Constitution.
“I think there is some anxiety out there and I understand it but some of it is also mischief. I think they should look at the provisions clearly and read them as they are,” said Mr Orengo.
He was speaking at his Ardhi House office alongside his Tanzanian counterpart Prof Anna Tibaijuka, who paid him a courtesy call.
Land Development and Governance Institute (LDGI), a lobby observed certain gains at the ministry including computerisation of records mainly at the national level as well as the enactment of the Environment and Land Court Act.
But the institute has been critical of the delay in establishing a Land Commission. In a study titled Kenya’s Land Reforms after One Year of Implementation, LDGI said, “There is need for the expeditious operationalisation of the National Land Commission to bridge the transition vacuum and drive issues relating to the implementation framework, reform legislation, improved service delivery, public education and other aspects of land reform.”
According to the transitional clauses in the constitution, the National Land Commission is expected to be established 18 months after the promulgation of the constitution. That translates to February 2012 as the deadline when the Commission should be in place.
“I wish to assure that the 18 months within which we are required to enact the land bill is not over and we will keep strictly to that timeline. I would not want anything to go wrong in bringing these reforms. But I think there is some mischief out there on these issues,” the minister said.
As per the transitional clauses, the provisions that relate to management public land, which is the core responsibility of the National Land Commission are suspended until such a time that the body will established.
“We are not violating any provision of the constitution neither are we in breach of any timeline as set out in the Fifth Schedule,” he said.
Debate over land continues to dominate public hearings including those of the Truth Justice and Reconciliation Commission (TJRC).
The chapter on land was also one of the contentious issues at the 2010 referendum, with the opponents of the constitution claiming that the provisions therein were a recipe for conflict.
According to Mr Orengo, the only way to correct those impressions is to open the debate on the proposed land laws early enough so that every Kenyan is given an opportunity to make an input.
“We want all the legislation on land to be in public domain. We want a more robust debate because land remains a very emotive issue in the country today. I will have no problem if Kenyans decided to transfer the functions of the minister, as presently set out, to the National Land Commission,” the minister said.