The reflective observer must be wondering what became of the NLC. Allegations of corruption, toxic internal factions and outright incompetence amongst commissioners have become commonplace words variously mentioned in the same sentence as the Commission. Without due regard for plausibility, probability and believability, the Commission has energetically taken the slipshod road towards ignominy and opprobrium. As it does this, the shambolic internal dysfunction within the Commission and struggles with the Ministry of Lands has projected itself to the public glare.

The LAND SECTOR NON STATE ACTORS (LSNSA), a coalition of civil society organisations working in the land sector is concerned at the continued breach of mandate and constitutional abuse by the National Land Commission due to dubious corruption deals, which is a departure from it’s core mandate. The Commissions’ performance despite the unwavering support and belief from the general public has continued to fall short by all standards. 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 their existence as an institution.

At this point in time, hard questions must be asked. As the term of the first set of Commissioners is drawing to a close, we must ask ourselves whether the Commission has delivered. Whether the Commission has satisfied the objects and ideals for which it was established in the Constitution. Whether the Commission has contributed to the land reform agenda in the way it was expected at its inception.

Reflecting on its short history, there have been several instances of unconscionable integrity lapses and rudderless forays into hideous enterprises. These instances demand a concerted collective response.

The most active stakeholders in the reformist path somehow withdrew somewhere along the way, for one reason or another.

We are ably reminded that all land belongs to the people of Kenya collectively as a nation, as communities and as individuals. Even more importantly, owing to our sordid history with the management of public land, it was thought important that the functions be entrusted in the hands of a constitutionally anchored independent commission.

The people of Kenya wanted a break with the past in relation to how public land was managed and administered. It was hoped that in the new dispensation and with a disciplined institution as the mantelpiece for reform, notions of fairness, impartiality and independence would henceforth constitute the mantelpiece for undoing the mess that management and administration of public land had become. As well, it was hoped that the NLC would set the highest standards in securing the observance of democratic values and principles.

This was a new order. An order in which the public’s desire of, and the need to foster, the  realization of the national value and principles enshrined in Article 10 of the Constitution of Kenya, and more particularly good governance, accountability and equity would  rule.

As is now clear, the Commission has fallen prey to their high-mindedness and idealism, with the result that the public now is extremely disillusioned.

Despite the assurance of normalcy by the members of the Commission, we know that all is not well. 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. The public is likely to have difficulty seeing sincerity in the members there. Its positive image and confidence it had with the public has since been grossly undermined.

So where does this bring us?  The crisis is unfolding like a Greek tragedy, but there seems to be no denouement. There is therefore no better time for the need, desire, hunger and will for the civil society to take back the leadership of the land reform efforts. We must recalibrate. We must look back as a nation, retrace our steps and find out where we went wrong and got us here. We must find our True North, of the land reform agenda.

This journey must start with the reconstitution of the National Land Constitution. Owing to the enormity of the responsibilities that the Commission has had in its inaugural term, and given the fact that so much is still expected of it, an immediate exit is certainly the best way out of the current morass.

Further, the sensitivity of matters falling within the docket of the Commission provides a rational basis for an early-dignified exit of the Commissioners. The Commission must be immediately reconstituted. We have undertaken to do the following:

  1. WE shall institute a public inquiry into the integrity of each commissioner who does not resign voluntarily in 30 days
  2. WE have recently received request from community groups and individuals who have details against several commissioners and with intention to petition parliament for the removal of these commissioners of NLC. We shall support this petition when it gets to be instituted.
  3. We DEMAND the immediate release and disclosure of all public inquiry reports done by NLC from 2013 and for the public to be apprised on action taken this far

Further, we call upon the EACC and DCI to:

  1. Audit all undertakings of the NLC since it’s inception in 2013
  2. Investigate land dealings and all lease renewals including those of Mombasa Cement, Kakuzi Limited, the National Housing Corporation allocation in Embakasi and Mwamdudu primary school on Dongo Kundu Bypass
  3. Undertake a lifestyle and performance audit on all the other NLC Commissioners and departmental heads.
  4. We call upon increased transparency and accountability especially within constitutional commissions and especially the National Land Commission.

We ask Kenyans not to lose faith in our institutions just because a few unpatriotic individuals want to plunge and distort the spirit behind the establishment of certain Commissions’.

Finally, it is important that in the current debate about the nature of democracy and the constitutional order, democratization of control over natural resources and land has certainly been very central. The failure and lack of integrity of the commissioners at the National Land Commission must not be seen to take this right away from the citizenry given the centrality and sensitivity of land issues in this country.

Signed by:

  • Kenya Land Alliance
  • Kenya Human Rights Commission
  • Pamoja Trust
  • Kituo Cha Sheria
  • Coast Land Non State Actors