CS Zachary Njeru should drive the land agenda robustly

Zachariah Njeru, who was nominated Cabinet Secretary of Lands, Housing and Urban Development, speaks to the Nation at Rift Valley Sports Club, Nakuru, on September 28, 2022. 

Photo credit: Francis Mureithi | Nation Media Group

Lands Cabinet Secretary Zachary Njeru is one of the most relaxed and affable high office holders that one can find. Unfortunately, his vast Ministry, which is responsible for the vexing land issue, will leave him little wriggle room.

Besides Lands, the Ministry comes loaded with the dockets of Public Works, Housing and Urban Development. Since he sits in Cabinet, he is responsible for the overall policy direction and coherence of the land sector, and the routine politics of land in the country. At the technical and operational level, the law obliges him to consult with the Land Commission.

Nevertheless, one gets the impression that the Ministry must seize back and drive the land agenda more robustly. A raft of issues compel this observation. A close look at the sector reminds us of issues that beg policy or political direction, and, in some cases, public sensitization and clarification. These include the matter of land leases for several large-scale farms under intensive tea and pineapple farming, and even ranching.

There has been subtle politics on some, much as the law is clear. Del Monte Company released parts of its land to Kiambu and Murang’a counties a while back. However, various interests are seemingly playing out, delaying decisions on the use to which this prime land should be put. Without high-level policy guidance, this land may be subdivided into small plots and selectively allocated, with consequences.

The pitch of the omnipresent politics of Embakasi Ranching in peri-urban Nairobi has risen, enhanced by transition and leadership issues. There are now calls to invalidate all the title deeds issued during President Uhuru Kenyatta’s regime, and the few recently issued under President William Ruto.

This causes confusion to the beneficiaries, and to those waiting. Land invasions have been witnessed at different times along the Coast, Mavoko, Nairobi, and in some parts of Nakuru County. They infringe on private, and, in some cases, public land rights. This undermines confidence in tenure rights and productivity.

 At the technical level, not much has been recently heard about the process of conversion and replacement of title deeds. Yet, this process, which seeks to bring all title deeds in Kenya under the Land Registration Act, has fundamental implications for future land transactions, and therefore Kenyans need to be continuously sensitised and reminded to deal.

Ibrahim Mwathane, Nairobi