The recent grabbing of the Lang’ata Primary School playground is just but a tip of the iceberg. There have been many incidents of grabbing of land belonging to learning institutions in Nairobi City. The relevant authorities have abetted this. The Langata incident having been highlighted by the media led to massive outcry across Kenya. The grabbing of Langa’ata Primary School land is believed to have been perpetuated by top Government officials in the Kenyatta Government or those close to them. There have been reports that Kabiria Primary, Ngong Forest Primary, Olympic Primary, Uhuru Gardens, Our Lady of Mercy and Kamkunji Secondary are among the schools whose land ownership has not been established. And recently, parents from St Catherine Primary School in South B, Nairobi marched to Ardhi House to protest against the grabbing of the school's playground by a private developer.
Scarcity of land in the city for residential and commercial development and land speculation has increased the cost of land in the city making it so attractive for grabbers. These grabbers range from individuals, companies and groups including religious groups. They get help form some Government officials. Most of these grabbers are influential and some are known while others operate in secrecy. They operate cartels that extend to the Government ministries and agencies.
The Government has remained mum over the land grabbing in the city especially land belonging to schools. Were it not for the involvement of the school pupils in demonstrations and against the grabbing of their playground, the Lang’ata grabbing could also have been shelved like the many other incidents. The Government should investigate and take action against its officers who are perpetuating this vice of land grabbing.
The directive of the President that all school land should be issued with titles and the titles be kept by the school is long overdue. This is because in many cases of school land grabbing, the schools do not have information about the land titles and in some cases the land has never been surveyed. The Government should prosecute those who have been behind this saga without discrimination. The alleged land grabbers could not have executed their scheme without involvement of senior officials in the Government and hence these officials must be made known to the public and appropriate action taken against them. These are some of the many structural and administrative challenges that have created loopholes for grabbers and need to be addressed with immediate effect if the Government wants to put to an end this land grabbing menace.
The National Land Commission (NLC) has been mandated under Article 67 of the Constitution as well as National Land Commission Act, 2012, to manage and administer all public land on behalf of national and county governments. It is also mandated to set up policies relating to land, among other functions. Although the Commission’s powers and functions are wide and far reaching, the way the Commission has been handling land related problems including the issue of land grabbers, has not instilled confidence of citizens in its independence and capability. As I stated in my earlier article ‘save schools from land grabbers’, the Commission has been reactionary in solving problems rather than being proactive. The interference and differences between the Cabinet Secretary in charge of Lands, Housing and Urban Planning and the Commission have undermined the Commission’s capacity in exercising of its mandate.
The information on land grabbing and related malpractices is in the public domain. And the Government is also aware. The Commission and the Ministry have been feigning ignorance on the issue even after several incidences having been reported to them. The Government officials who are usually assigned to follow up on the issues are often manipulated, intimidated, threatened or bribed.
For once, let the Government address the grabbing of public land with the seriousness it deserves and avoid public relation gimmicks over the issue.
Hon Tim Wanyonyi is the MP, Westlands Constituency in Nairobi