What you need to know:
- This new tarmac road spells tremendous potential for business, tourism, economic and cultural inclusion for the region and nation.
- The management of community land can be quite challenging because the resident communities are largely pastoral.
While en route to Debre Zeyit from Addis Ababa for an event with the African Land Policy Centre, I made the comment that the highway looked great and really enabling for high speed traffic.
Next to me was a land expert from the African Development Bank who quickly observed: “We supported its construction. It’s part of the Great North Road and goes right south to connect with Kenya at Moyale.”
I felt quite challenged about this information gap on my part as he went on to remark that Kenya recently completed its part of this road by tarmacking the Isiolo-Marsabit-Moyale section.
While on a mission with the Land Development and Governance Institute a few months later, I had the opportunity to witness the Kenya-Ethiopia connection!
An excellent A2 class road now connects us to Ethiopia at Moyale. It is wide, smooth and fast to drive on.
So smooth that one can comfortably work their computer while on the drive.
It takes you through about 750 km of diverse cultural and geographical terrain between Nairobi and Moyale.
And please be disabused of the notion that you need security between Isiolo and Moyale. That’s in the past.
We drove all the way with none at all. But there are reassuring police checks along the way!
At Moyale, we walked over to the Ethiopian side, giving me a first-hand opportunity to appreciate that road A2 takes one all the way to Addis Ababa.
Another 774 km and one would be taking “injera” in Ethiopia’s capital city.
Citizens of western, Nairobi and central Kenya, who keep imagining what this part of our country looks like, need to rev up and go have an experience of their lives.
For policy planners and political leaders, this new tarmac road spells tremendous potential for business, tourism, economic and cultural inclusion for the region and nation.
Let’s harness it! Let me not go into further details on this experience lest I divert from today’s subject.
The great north road traverses vast swathes of community land between Isiolo and Moyale mainly inhabited by the pastoral communities of Borana, Samburu, Somali, Rendile and Turkana.
The vastness of the community land brings to fore the existing and latent economic potential. The many herds of camels, cattle, goats and sheep that strand this vast land tell a story of a promising future.
They only require good support through adequate water points, abattoirs and a reliable market.
The vast land also reminds one of some of the sparsely populated states in America that host manufacturing concerns that would otherwise find challenges setting up in the populous areas.
Industries and manufacturing firms that require vast amounts of land in Kenya have the opportunity to get into discussions with county governments in the region.
There are great opportunities for the exploitation of natural resources, which this region is endowed with.
The strong winds in some parts, which drivers are actually cautioned about as they drive between Isiolo and Moyale, are evidence that there is good opportunity for wind power generation.
And the high temperatures in most parts of this land can be harnessed for solar energy.
But the above, which are only part of the potential spelt by the vast community land, cannot be fully realised without good land tenure security.
Kenya has made quite some progress towards this by enacting a Community Land Act.
But it is good to remind ourselves that this is the piece of legislation that took longest of all the recently enacted land laws.
From the time we promulgated our Constitution in August 2010, it wasn’t until September 2016 – a whole six years later – that we got the statute.
The management of community land can be quite challenging because the resident communities are largely pastoral and wander in search of pasture between seasons.
This can easily give the incorrect perception that the land they move from is vacant.
The pastoral lifestyle also makes it difficult to introduce the notion of individual and even group titles without great thought and safeguards lest law boxes the communities into fixed territories, which wouldn’t serve their seasonal needs.
So exhaustive consultations needed to precede the enactment of our community land law!
So are we now out of the woods and can proceed to implement the law robustly? Not quite.
Enabling regulations, which lawyers like to call subsidiary legislation, are yet to be enacted.
While regulations to the Community Land Act were formulated alongside those to the Land and Land Registration Acts, the Parliamentary committee on delegated legislation recommended the annulment of some sections of the regulations found to contravene the Statutory Instruments Act.
According to the Committee report, the sections on payment of royalties, rents, compensation and payments in respect of exploration of natural resources should be more properly dealt with by the ministries responsible for the natural resources sector and not Lands.
This must be addressed before these critical regulations are enacted.
Let’s comply accordingly so that implementation of the community law can begin.
Mwathane is a land surveyor: [email protected]