President Uhuru Kenyatta Wednesday warned Kenyans against electing leaders he described as supporting land cartels in the August 9 General Election, as he launched a massive drive to distribute a million titles in two weeks.
The Head of State also ordered Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i and his Lands counterpart Farida Karoney to team up with county commissioners to distribute the title deeds.
He further warned that the reforms his government had undertaken in the land sector would be under threat should Kenyans elect leaders who will not commit to them.
“There are those who were fond of clearing forest areas to build houses, because they knew no one would follow up. Now that the titles have been digitised, they will show that that is a forest area, and no title will be issued for gazetted forest land. This is because we need to protect our forests,” said President Kenyatta.
Stealing public land
He declared: “Others were used to stealing public land. They would wake up in the morning and walk around looking for unoccupied land to take over. That won’t happen again.”
Speaking at the Kenyatta International Convention Centre (KICC), President Kenyatta stated that land cartels were assembling with the intention of slowing down the pace of reforms already put in place.
Out of the titles distributed since 2013, Meru County received the highest number at 445,069, followed by Kitui County with 358,789 titles.
Laikipia County came third with 351,024 title deeds, Machakos County (340,050), Kiambu County (325,147) and Kajiado County (313,254).
Siaya County was seventh with 295,000 titles, followed by Homa Bay with 241,541 titles. Kisumu received 240107 and Makueni 214,800 titles.
Fulfilment of pledge
President Kenyatta said the issuance of the titles was in fulfilment of a pledge that his administration made on February 3, 2013.
“As of 2013, some 67 per cent of land in Kenya had still not been adjudicated and had no titles. People living on community land suffered disadvantages not experienced by those living on unregistered lands, as they could not unlock the commercial value of that land. Public bodies were hampered by encroachment, grabbing and uncertainty due to land holdings. I also observed that individuals were living on untitled land that they could not develop because they knew that they could be evicted at any time,” said President Kenyatta.
Six million titles
Nine years later, he explained, more than six million titles have been issued, compared to a similar number that was issued in more than 50 years after independence and 50 years prior to independence.
“The government is also documenting land belonging to public institutions such as schools, law courts and prisons. The Ministry of Lands, working with partners in the education sector, has delivered titling of parcels of land belonging to 20,000 schools and surveying of 32,000 public schools,” he said.
He explained that the electronic land information and management system was launched to do away with the manual registry, which was prone to misuse and contributed to corruption.
“As part of our reforms in the land registry, the process of identifying fake title deeds and reversing endemic fraud was accelerated. We have also increased the efficiency and speed of land processing. Less than four years ago it took a minimum of six months to complete a single land transaction. Now it takes 48 hours, using the system we have in place,” he said.
Similarly, he said, instead of taking between one and three months to conduct a land search, it now takes three to five minutes to get the results from the comfort of your home or office, the President explained.
Community Land Act
The President also stated that after he signed the Community Land Act into law in 2016, an estimated 3.5 million Kenyans, who had been unable to register approximately 150,000 square miles of communal land, were now able to do so. Group ranches in Laikipia, Samburu, Kajiado, West Pokot and Taita-Taveta counties, for example, have since received their title deeds, benefiting more than a million people in those communities.
The President also stated that the government had gazetted 10 land registries, bringing the total in the country to 67. He added that the government was in the process of constructing 10 more registries to support devolved units and decentralise land administration services.
The up-and-running registries are located in Kajiado West, Kajiado South, Yatta, Ntomo, Samburu, Malindi, Ruiru, Tigania West, Marimanti, Kiritiri and others. Those under construction are located in Hola, Kitui, Mbeere, Bomet, Ol Kalua, Naivasha, Nandi, Ruiru, Laikipia and Samburu.