New NLC team must make clean break from past

Monday, September 23rd, 2019 00:00 |
Ardhi House, Nairobi.

 The National Land Commission (NLC) will soon get new commissioners after vetting of the nominees  by Parliament began last week. The last set of commissioners left office in a cloud after their term ended.

The former commissioners had a tenure whose focus was completely subverted by infighting, accusations of fraud and corruption and financial impropriety.

Former chairman Prof Mohammad Swazuri was arrested and charged in court  together with the chief executive  Tom Chavangi, Communication secretary Lilian Kaverenge and other commissioners and directors.  They faced 20 counts of corruption, abuse of office, financial misconduct, among other charges. 

They left the NLC in quite a pickle. The incoming commissioners will have to hit the ground running.  They have a raft of challenges that are awaiting them.

What they need to know is that they must, by both word and deed, demonstrate that they have made a clean break with the past! It will not be easy.

The most critical challenge is reinstating and maintaining public confidence in NLC.

Public trust  in the organisation has been shot by a series of highly controversial transactions, especially relating to compensation for land compulsorily acquired by the government for infrastructure and agricultural projects.

So much expectation had been placed on the shoulders of this commission that Kenyans who have had  issues and were hoping the NLC will finally bring them resolution, are deeply disappointed.

This means the new commissioners must start with some early wins to restore public confidence that NLC has tuned over a new leaf, that the new commissioners have integrity. 

Leases are coming to an end in various counties, and investors are sitting on most of those leases. 

Swazuri left many lease issues in abeyance, and investors, who had hoped for automatic renewals are facing challenges.

Some leases fraudulently changed hands, and those dispossessed will be hoping for justice from the new commissioners.  This has destabilised a lot of businesses in the country.

Further, they must create a new system that is transparent, accountable and quick in dealing with the key issues facing the NLC namely compensation for compulsory acquisition, long standing land disputes, historical displacement, and leases. 

Under  Swazuri, the NLC seemed not to have appreciated its critical role in helping resolve the land issues in the country.

Land is a very emotive subject in Kenya, and many years of all manner of chicanery over land has left the matter thoroughly convoluted.

It was in an attempt to insulate land issues from politics that the NLC was established through the birth of the 2010 Constitution.

It is sad that far from becoming a key part of the solution, NLC has worsened things by creating a new layer of problems.

Among its key mandates is the management of land on behalf of national and county governments.

This is a key mandate because in the past, the so-called land grabbing and fraudulent acquisition of government land by politically correct individuals has been rampant.

NLC should revoke the thousands of titles that were fraudulently given out for public land. This would demonstrate to Kenyans that a new sheriff is in town and he intends to clean up.

There is also the issue of historical injustices over land. Many individuals and communities have lost land over decades either through compulsory acquisition with no compensation, fraud and other illegal activities. 

The new commissioners should invite people with such cases even if they have moved to court, to see how they can assist.

Historical injustices over land have long remained a tinderbox in this country, that politicians use every five years during electioneering to create tensions for political agenda. 

The question that remains is, will the new commissioners have the courage to buck the political establishment from whom the largest culprits of all these shenanigans involving land are drawn from? Only time will tell. -— [email protected]

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