Politicians still using Coast land issues to stir up voters

Coast title deeds

Unresolved cases of landlessness and historical injustices dating back at least a century continue to shape Coast politics ahead of the 2022 General Election.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

Unresolved cases of landlessness and historical injustices dating back at least a century continue to shape Coast politics ahead of the 2022 General Election.

Nine years since the Jubilee government came to power, it has not conclusively resolved the land problem.

But President Uhuru Kenyatta’s administration has issued title deeds in some areas and successfully settled a long-standing dispute between squatters and a landowner in the Waitiki farm case.

And recently, Orange Democratic Movement leader Raila Odinga, on a tour of the Coast, promised to help find a long-term solution to the land challenges.

During election campaigns, politicians exploit the land problem to whip up emotions by reminding the electorate that they are squatters on their own land.

A caseload report indicates that in the 2020/21 financial year, 343 land disputes, including appeals and petitions, were filed in the Environment and Land Court in Mombasa, while 155 others were filed in Malindi between January and June 31 last year.

In the same period, 272 land cases were resolved in Mombasa and 240 others in Malindi. As of March 31, 2021, Mombasa had 2,146 pending cases while Malindi had 844.

Pending land cases

Across the country, there are 14,888 land cases pending in courts. Mombasa has the highest number at 2,146.

Using land as a campaign tool in the Coast region continues to anger some residents, who feel they are being used by local and national politicians whose sole aim is to capture power.

Prof Halimu Shauri, a lecturer at Pwani University, says the land issue continues to be used by politicians who do not have any agenda for the electorate.

“The issue of land is historical because there is no clear methodology of solving it,” said Prof Shauri, adding that the critical issue is how to resolve the squatter problem.

Prof Shauri also blamed the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC), saying it had failed to conduct civic education on voting issues.

“IEBC needs to conduct proper civic education for five years continuously. People are going into elections without proper education on voting,” he said.

Tokenism

The lecturer described as tokenism the issuing of title deeds by the government to some residents as a way of resolving the land problem.

Politicians, he said, have no strategy for resolving the land problem, as they talk about it each election cycle but do nothing about it once elected.

Mombasa lawyer Shukran Mwabonje argued that politicians use the land issue knowing well that it whips up emotions among voters.

Mr Mwabonje said that in 2015, the National Land Commission recommended to Parliament a comprehensive bill to adjudicate historical land injustices. The Investigation & Adjudication of Historic Land Injustice Bill, 2015 has not been passed.

He said politicians use the land issue only for political mileage or they would have pushed for comprehensive legislation to tackle it once and for all.

Ms Maimuna Mwidau, a political commentator, supported the assertion that land issues are used every election cycle as a political tool.

“Some of the parliamentarians, upon being elected, do not discuss the issue effectively in Parliament. They use it as a political tool, otherwise it would have been solved,” she said.

For his part, lawyer Yusuf Aboubakar noted that in some instances, people have ignored maps that guide development in some areas.

He said proper planning, public participation on all decisions concerning land and fighting corruption at land registries are key to resolving the land problem in the Coast region.


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