The Ministry of Lands has waded into the raging county boundary disputes, definitively declaring set borders, setting the stage for an even bigger battle for the control of key economic zones by the warring regions.
Currently, at least 18 counties are in various disputes over their boundaries with other counties, with the centre of it being who collects levies in the disputed towns—a key source of conflict in Kenya’s devolved governance.
In a report to two senate committees, Lands CS Farida Karoney said some of the disputed boundaries had maps that shows that they were not in dispute, setting the stage for battle with counties that want a review.
On the dispute between Machakos and Makueni on the multi-billion techno-city, Konza, Ms Karoney said it lies in Machakos.
“Kalama location (which is near Konza City) had been placed in Makueni by the Provinces and Districts Act, 1992, but Legal Notice 298 of 1998 and Legal Notice 57 of 1997 clarified that it is in Machakos County,” Ms Karoney told the committees.
The committee of Justice and legal Affairs and that of National Security had invited Karoney, Devolution CS Eugene Wamalwa and Interior CS Fred Matiangi to give a status update on the disputes among counties and what the government is doing to stem the violence that arise from such conflicts.
Tax collections point
On Maseno — the home of the famed Maseno School and Maseno University — the CS said the town was in Kisumu, and not Vihiga, which has laid claim to the town with sprawling agriculture and businesses, a key tax collections point.
“The boundary description places Maseno Town in Kisumu County. However, being a border town, its growth makes it flow over to the neighbouring counties of Siaya and Vihiga,” Ms Karoney told the Senate, giving a window for further disputes in the town.
Former Vihiga Governor Moses Akaranga, in a boundary war that seemed to have subsided but which was recently reignited under Governor Wilbur Ottichillo, claimed that Maseno Town is in his county and not Kisumu.
In her report to the House, Ms Karoney refused to take a position on Kapedo, which is in dispute between Baringo, West Pokot, and Turkana counties,
“Kapedo is a centre at the common boundary and which with expansion has spread to Turkana County, thus creating some confusion given that Kapedo itself is a reference for the boundary,” Ms Karoney said.
The placement of Kapedo in Baringo attracted an immediate opposition from Turkana senator Malachy Ekal Imana, who accused the national government of manipulating the boundary between the two counties to disfavor his county.
“The claim (of Kapedo being in Baringo) is fussy and confusing. Kapedo is inside Turkana County. It is not on the boundary. Kapedo is a Turkana word and Pokot who reside in East Baringo cannot even pronounce it,” he charged.
However, Mandera senator, who chaired the meetings cautioned the senator against invoking the names of the two counties for fear it could stoke conflict.
Merrueshi trading centre
On the dispute on Mtito Andei Town pitting Taita Taveta and Makueni counties, Ms Karoney said while there was confusion on the border town in earlier descriptions, a decision by the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) in 2012 settled the matter.
“IEBC issued Legal Notice 14 of 2012 that clarified that Mtito Andei location of Kibwezi Constituency is in Makueni County. Mtito Andei is at the far end southern-eastern part of Makueni County and the south-eastern boundary of the location forms part of the county boundary,” said Ms Karoney.
On Merrueshi boundary dispute between Kajiado and Makueni, Ms Karoney sided with Kajiado.
“The descriptions of the boundaries of the two counties are in harmony and therefore a common boundary is uniquely described. Merrueshi trading centre is about 10 kilometres from the said boundary into Kajiado and along Kiboko river. Legal Notice 298 of 1996 also listed Kenyawa and Poka locations as being in Kajiado Central constituency,” said Ms Karoney.
On the dispute between Meru and Isiolo, Ms Karoney deferred it to Parliament, saying it should form an independent commission to handle it.
The CS told the joint committee that Article 188 of the constitution provides a clear procedure for amending the boundaries of counties and challenged MPs to enact a law that will adjudicate disputes an alteration arising from county boundaries.
“The mandate to adjudicate issues touching on county boundaries vests in an independent commission as provided in article 188. In order to resolve the issues comprehensively the enabling legislation to implement the article 188 needs to be enacted,” she said.
Devolution CS Eugene Wamalwa admitted there are ongoing disputes but challenged the counties to explore alternative disputes resolution to avoid long drawn litigations in the courts.
“We have put regulations in place and it is incumbent upon the counties to embrace alternative disputes resolution so that these matters are resolved cheaply and expeditiously,” he said, while asking parliament to enact the law as it has the powers.
Makueni senator Mutula Kilonzo Junior has sponsored the County Boundaries Bill, 2015, whose objective is to define the boundaries of Counties, provide for resolution of boundary disputes and ensure the constitution is followed during alteration of boundaries.
Although the Senate has passed the Bill, the National Assembly has rejected it arguing that the Senate acted beyond its powers in debating the proposed law as it is a money Bill,
The CS told the Committees that the maps are available at the Survey of Kenya and in case of a dispute among counties over boundary, reference is made to the maps.
“Let the lawmakers prioritise the Bill because it will help in strengthening the legal regime,” Mr Wamalwa said.
Bungoma senator Moses Wetangula said the Ministry should start by demarcating the boundaries with no disputes as the first step towards having a conflict free boundary regime.
“Where there is a dispute, the law must be passed to provide instrument to resolve such disputes,” he said, adding that the demarcation of boundaries should go beyond those of counties to international borders.