The biggest form of corruption we had after independence was land-grabbing. This graft was done in the name of ending colonial land-grabbing that had given most of the best arable land to the white settlers. After independence, African leaders started their own land-grabbing that gave huge tracks of land to a few leaders and rich individuals while majority Kenyans remained poor and landless everywhere in the country.
For a long time, debate on land was suppressed until recently when Cord coalition claimed upcountry people had grabbed land at Mpeketoni, Lamu and elsewhere at the Coast, and that was the cause of murders and massacres in Lamu and insecurity at the Coast.
While people at Mpeketoni were accused of land-grabbing, the truth was poor people who government had settled at Mpeketoni had no means of grabbing land, and could not be land-grabbers. Rather, land grabbers were rich people from all communities who used their wealth and influence in government to take for themselves huge chunks of land, not just at the Coast but all over the country, leaving the poor from all communities poor and landless.
Fortunately, evidence has come to prove that indeed, land-grabbers at the Coast were not the poor of Mpeketoni or just upcountry people living at the Coast, but elites of all communities from all corners in Kenya.
Surprisingly, when evidence came pouring down as to who had grabbed land in Lamu, Cord coalition that started the debate under the banner of championing the struggle for justice were not happy. The list of land-grabbers exposed their hypocrisy of sanctioning land -grabbing when in office while seeking political mileage by claiming to champion the fight against corruption and land-grabbing. That Orengo and Cord could facilitate land-grabbing completely spoilt their scheme of stereotyping some communities as land-grabbers in order to isolate them politically.
While many in Kenya have accused President Uhuru and Kenyatta family of land-grabbing and challenged Uhuru to tackle it, Cord are now totally opposed to his leadership in exposing land-grabbing in Lamu county. There are many reasons for this perplexing stance.
If Uhuru champions the fight against land-grabbing, he will be very popular and hard to beat. Equally, if Cord loses the plank of land-grabbing in their campaign to recapture power, they could be politically ruined. Logically therefore, Cord would rather President Uhuru embraces land-grabbing because it will make him unpopular and easy to beat. But if Cord opposes Uhuru’s campaign against land-grabbing they will lose a lot of credibility with the people who are real victims of land-grabbing. And because ending land-grabbing is a matter of life and death for many squatters at the Coast and elsewhere, Cord will commit political suicide if it opposes fighting land-grabbing just to spite Uhuru.
But maybe Cord was never serious about ending land-grabbing. If they were, whether they gain or lose politically, they would welcome president’s campaign against land-grabbing, first because they would share credit for fighting land-grabbing, and second because the fight against land-grabbing would succeed more easily if the President supports rather than opposes it. But Cord leaders don’t care about ending land-grabbing. They want to make political capital out of it and the longer it lasts the better.
And Cord is so afraid of the President’s campaign against land-grabbing that its first reaction to Ngilu’s disclosures was to claim former Lands Minister James Orengo who was accused by Ngilu of sanctioning land-grabbing had no power to authorise any land-grabbing at the Coast and only President Kibaki could and should therefore be investigated too. Then Orengo admitted revoking titles of Cabinet Secretary Kambi, Deputy President William Ruto and 850 other titles. But if Orengo could revoke illegal allocations, why could he not authorise others? And clearly if Orengo had the authority to revoke, approve and allocate land, he was duty-bound to accept responsibility for whatever land-grabbing he had sanctioned while people are morally bound to give him credit for whatever illegal allocations he revoked.
To succeed in fighting land-grabbing, the President should take the fight to his own home and dispel widely held claims that his family used government influence to grab land all over the country. If the President does not clear his family of this accusation, however much he fights land grabbing elsewhere, it will not stick.
Tragically, to succeed in fighting land-grabbing, the President should be prepared to commit not just suicide against his class that will fight him for denying them protection, but also against his family that also expects him to protect their wealth however earned.
In fighting land-grabbing, I agree with Cord that nobody, including former President Kibaki, Orengo, Kenya's first President Kenyatta, Cord leader Raila Odinga, Kenya's first Lands Minister Jackson Angaine and former President Moi should be spared against this investigation. Indeed, beans of land-grabbing should be spilt right from 1902 to date.
Finally, neither leaving all land matters to the National Land Commission alone, nor implementing the Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Report will eradicate, or undo past land-grabbing in Kenya. TJRC was constituted more to conceal than reveal truth about land-grabbing. It was denied legal mandate to investigate and reveal colonial land-grabbing and atrocities.
TJRC was constituted more to favour land-grabbers and squatter victims. It compromised its integrity by paying Moi – and by extension his class – a courtesy call. Its commissioners wrote their report more to protect their benefactor-leaders than expose land-grabbing. Impartiality and suitability of its chair were contested in court.
And indeed it is ironic that while Betty Murungi, Orengo’s wife resigned from TJRC in protest against the commission being chaired by a compromised person, Orengo is today championing the implementation of its compromised report.
Koigi wamwere is the leader of CCM Party