Kenyans of Asian origin and foreigners who have acquired land in the country are a worried lot due to frequent intimidations from influential people keen to evict them.
Occupants of lease hold properties have become targets of a cartel that is colluding with officials at the Ministry of Lands to fraudulently process extension and renewal of land leases, according to Nyamira Senator Kennedy Mong’are.
In Nairobi, hired goons who rely on forged ownership documents and renewing others illegally have descended on homes, sometimes in broad daylight claiming that the land in question had exchanged hands, after expiry of leases.
This is despite the government saying that priority for renewal of leases should be given to those occupying the land and in the event that they do not wish to renew the land in question, the land will revert to the government.
Those affected have complained that they are being tossed from the Ministry, the National Lands Commission (NLC) and their respective county governments, whenever they sought assistance.
“Nobody wants to take responsibility to correct the anomaly, yet the well-connected people are taking advantage of the deadlock to scare away people who genuinely acquired land,” Mr Mong’are, who is a lawyer said.
Mr Mong’are who has declared interest in the presidency, said many institutions are fond of unnecessarily delaying justice by claiming to be investigating a matter that is clear and the documents are available, to set the record straight.
“They prefer finding solace in the sentence, we are investigating, even when it is clear someone’s rights have been violated and the documents to confirm the true position are available,” the lawmaker said.
Nairobi Governor Dr Evans Kidero admitted that some criminal cartels have been using counterfeit documents to grab public land.
He said the NLC has not done much to consult other players to tackle land ownership disputes that remains a time bomb, including affecting investor confidence in the country, if not properly addressed.
And now, the Lands Cabinet Secretary, Prof Jacob Kaimenyi, has moved to forestall the alarming rate at which the cartels are eyeing private land, amidst revelations that influential leaders, could be behind the lawlessness.
After the Cabinet directed Prof Kaimenyi in December last year, to stop any renewal of leases until the system is streamlined, he has set up a task force to unearth the mystery behind the land leases.
Tristan Voorspuy, a dual Kenyan/British national, is the latest casualty of land related conflicts after he was found dead at the Sosian ranch in Laikipia County, which he co-owns.
He had reportedly ventured out on a horseback to visit a site on the ranch where two cottages had been set ablaze.
Many of the pastoralists claimed that the huge tracts of land mostly owned by ranchers, who are mainly white settlers, was their ancestral land.
Last year, properties belonging to Mr Nazmudin Habib Kassam Kurji, 73, and his wife, and his brother, Sadrudin Habib Kassam Kurji in Nairobi, were demolished over land lease disagreements.
The 11 member team chaired by Mr Ibrahim Mwathane a renowned expert on land matters will have to determine whether due process was followed in the renewal of land leases since 2010.
“The team will restrict itself to analysing and reviewing the existing policy, legal and institutional framework on processing of extension and renewal of the leases,” the gazette notice indicates.
The team that has six months to deliver unless the duration is extended by the cabinet secretary, will be expected to make recommendations to address existing gaps and weaknesses in the process.
They are also required to “make recommendations on the actions to be taken against all those individuals who have been involved in the fraudulent renewal and extension of leases.”
The task force will also establish if there are any initiatives taken to convert land with expired leases either to community or public land and the implications of such undertakings.
The Ministry will meet the costs incurred by the taskforce, which include facilitation and allowances.