RADICAL PROPOSALS

Rift valley leaders want BBI to address historical land issues

Say colonial government should be held responsible for abuses and illegal occupation of their parcels

In Summary

• Kericho, Nandi and Bomet counties are all demanding for compensation and return of huge tracks. 

• Nakuru county wants to be given full management of the Lake Nakuru National Park. 

President Uhuru Kenyatta reads the BBI report
BBI: President Uhuru Kenyatta reads the BBI report
Image: /BRIAN OJAMAA

Long-standing land injustices and dwindling agricultural fortunes dominated presentations to the Building Bridges Initiative team by governors from Rift Valley.

Kericho, Nandi and Bomet counties all demand compensation and reparation of huge tracks of lands under the multi-national tea companies.

 

Apart from a payout of about 2.5 trillion, the three counties also want the colonial government to be held responsible for abuses and illegal occupation of their land.

Governors Paul Chepkwony (Kericho), Hillary Barchok (Bomet) and Stephen Sang (Nandi) have separately been pursuing compensation on behalf of Kipsigis, Ogiek and the Talai clans forced off their lands by the settlers between 1902 and 1924.

The battle for compensation and repossession of the almost  200,000 acres spread between Kericho and Bomet has dragged on in Kenyan and British courts for nearly 20 years.

“We are committed to ensuring that our people get justice for the tribulations they went through. Some are now landless while others were forcefully moved out of their lands. We told the BBI team that we want nothing short of justice and compensation,” Chepkwony told the Star Monday.

In March last year, the National Land Commission also ordered that vast tea estates be returned to and held in trust for the community by the two counties as public resources.

NLC ruled that 999-year leases be converted to the constitutional requirement of 99-year maximum leases.

Nakuru county, on the other hand, wants to be given full management of the Lake Nakuru National Park like its neighbour Narok county with Maasai Mara.

 

Governor Lee Kinyanjui said failure to put the park under the county amounts to discrimination and is “disadvantageous to the people of Nakuru.”

 

On food security, Kinyanji told the BBI task force chaired by Garissa Senator Yusuf Haji that the agriculture sector has been underfunded.  

“Funding towards agriculture should be scaled up to ensure participation of women and youth. In addition, the state should provide grants to help in the promotion of specific crops such as pyrethrum,” he said.

The governor also wants the national government to come up with practical ways to address youth unemployment because “it will pose a challenge in future”. 

“Deliberate measures must be undertaken to ensure implementation of existing laws that support youth empowerment,” he told the team.

Kinyanjui noted that since Independence the county has “ not benefited in the national cake especially in Cabinet appointments”.  

He said that continued discrimination of persons from the county is a major blow to the principle of fairness and inclusivity.

He also told the task force that the sanctity of title deeds must be upheld at all times and the right to own property anywhere in the country should be protected.

“In the event of failure to provide such assurance, the state should compensate for any loss that might be incurred by residents. The compensation should be realistic and must be restorative in nature,” he noted.

He wants the communities to have a say in the management of resources such as forests. It is unfair that forests blocks are being allocated to outsiders at the expense of the locals, he said. 

On the management of Mau Forest, Kinyanjui said the caveat issued by the state should have a timeline or else it would become counterproductive.

“The state should provide a comprehensive solution to the Mau challenge, the caveat is a postponement of the problem.  A task force should be formed to solve long-standing land disputes, some of which have persisted through decades and have the potential to escalate to serious conflict,” he said.

While Chepkowny roots for the expansion of the executive with the introduction of a powerful prime minister with two deputies, Kinyanjui wants the office of the leader of the opposition created. 

The office should be fully funded by the taxpayer. Presidential candidates who lose should also be given seats in Parliament, according to Kinyanjui.

On funding of counties, the governor recommended that the allocation should be increased to 45 per cent.

Elgeyo Marakwet Governor Alex Tolgos told the task force that in future governors should be appointed by the President and approved by Senate instead of the current model where they are elected directly by the people.

Tolgos suggested that cabinet secretaries and county executives be picked from the sitting MPs and MCAs respectively.

(edited by o. owino)