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November 15, 2018

NLC split as Swazuri fights back over job

EmbattledNational LandsCommissionChairmanMohamedSwazuri/JACK OWUOR
EmbattledNational LandsCommissionChairmanMohamedSwazuri/JACK OWUOR

Embattled National Land Commission chairman Muhammad Swazuri has written to Head of Public Service Francis Kinyua demanding his job back.

 His petition comes even as a coalition of civil society organizations demands dissolution of the commission within 30 days.

Swazuri who was charged in court last week with numerous corruption charges relating to compensation for the standard gauge railway claims that he was unfairly removed from office.

Read: Swazuri, Kenya Railways boss arrested over SGR land compensation payouts

In a four-page letter dated August 14, Swazuri also launched a scathing attack on acting chairperson Abigael Mbagaya, accusing her of misinterpreting the court order.

"The magistrate ordered that I should not go to my office unless accompanied by a police officer and after consulting with the "new management". That order has apparently been translated by the vice-chairperson to mean that I have been suspended or interdicted," Swazuri writes.

"All these are indications that the main aim of the pending court case was to replace me through the backdoor outside constitutional and statutory provisions," said Swazuri, adding that a commissioner he did not name was partly behind his woes.

"My request is that you urgently intervene in this matter by seeking answers to the reasons why EACC violated my constitutional rights and assist in addressing the issue of my ostensible removal from the office," added Swazuri.

Swazuri has also complained of the manner in which he was arrested, insisting that he was innocent and the charges were made up.

Mbagaya refused to comment on Swazuri’s letter saying she was not sure it was from him.

But as Swazuri was fighting for his job, a group of civil society organisations working in the land sector called a press conference in Nairobi to demand the dissolution of the commission with 30 days.

The Commission's term is set to end on February 19 next year.

Read: NLC paid Sh1.5bn for Ruaraka land, nobody conned - Swazuri

The Kenya Land Alliance, Kenya Human Rights Commission, Pamoja Trust, HakiJamii, Reconcile, Kituo Cha Sheria and Coast Land Non State Actors said the commission is characterized by "corruption allegations, toxic internal factions and outright incompetence".

"These public officers and a section of staff members have continued to breach their mandate and caused a mockery of the very constitution that breathes life to the existence of an institution," said the group.

Ten days ago, top leaders of the commission including Swazuri were dramatically rounded up over graft allegations alongside Kenya Railways MD Atanas Maina. 

Others charged included the commission CEO/ secretary Tom Aziz Chavangi and directors Salome Munubi, Francis Mugo, Gladys Muyanga (Ministry of Lands) and Obadiah Wainaina (surveyor).

 Responding to public fear of a vacuum, the commission last Wednesday denied there was a crisis and that those charged had been replaced.

More: NLC calls crisis meeting as chair Swazuri charged

DAMAGED

Yesterday KHRC program adviser Faith Alubbe said NLC was so badly damaged that it would not able to discharge its mandate in the current state.

"The commission is sinking and with it, the hopes of Kenyans. The feel-good moment is over. The current turn of events is likely to be very problematic for the commission and the public is likely to have difficulty seeing sincerity in the members there," she said.

Pamoja Trust director Steve Ouma asked Director of Public Prosecutions Noordin Haji to order investigations into a number of transactions undertaken by some commissioners and senior staff.

"We do think strongly that all commissioners who dealt with the matter of renewal of lease from Mombasa cement and the Kakuzi matter, should be investigated. We have enormous complaints from members of the public about how conversations, deliberations and conclusions were made on that matter," said Ouma

The coalition also asked the DPP to probe commissioners who were allocated houses under the National Housing Corporation scheme in Embakasi.

 Some commissioners allegedly got more than two houses.

"We have written to two commissioners asking them to resign within a month. If they don’t then we will launch a campaign to remove all of them from office before their term ends," added Ouma.

The coalition said the independence of NLC had been sold “to the private merchants" and that secure land tenure had been offered for sale by the commissioners. 

"They have taken 90 percent of the time in support of what they are calling mega state projects; be it SGR or Lapsset. They have not done this for the benefit of Kenyans,” Ouma claimed.

“They have done most of them to enrich themselves," said Ouma.

NLC director of communication Khalid Salim said NLC was committed to supporting the Big Four agenda as all of them needed land.

He dismissed the coalition saying "sideshows will not help.” “Telling someone to resign without reason is wrong, we need specifics,” he said.

Kenya Land Alliance chairman Odenda Lumumba said they had put all commissioners on notice and and if they don’t quit, the coalition will institute a public inquiry that will name and shame them.

"We want NLC to immediately release and disclose all public inquiry reports they have done since 2013," said Lumumba, adding that all NLC commissioners should undergo lifestyle audits.

Shamsan Najib from the Coast Land Non State Actors accused NLC of failing to protect the rights of the vulnerable.

The Commission derives its mandate from the Constitution of Kenya 2010, the National Land Policy (2009) and acts of Parliament — the National Land Commission (NLC) Act, the Land Act and the Land Registration Act, all of 2012.

Details: How Swazuri authorised suspicious payout for SGR land

Below is Swazuri's letter to Head of Public Service Joseph Kinyua:

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