Friday, August 1, 2008



August 1, 2008
By Beauttah Omanga
The Standard

A Permanent Secretary re-opened the highly emotive land issue and heaped blame on the Kenyatta regime for the problems bedeviling Kenyans today.

Lands PS Dorothy Angote accused founding President Jomo Kenyatta and senior members of his Government of allocating huge chunks of land to undeserving individuals at the expense of landless Kenyans.

Angote spoke on Thursday shortly after Deputy Prime Minister, Mr Uhuru Kenyatta, was interviewed by BBC TV in London and asked to comment, among other things, on land issues.

But Uhuru avoided being drawn into the question by BBC TV Hard Talk anchor Stephen Sackur.

But Angote recalled independence history, saying the British government gave Kenya huge amounts of money in 1964 to resettle landless Kenyans when her citizens, former colonial masters, returned home at the dawn of ‘uhuru’.

"The colonialists left behind a lot of money to resettle the landless. But instead of the money being used for the intended purpose, it was diverted," said the PS.

She added: "What I am saying now has always been an issue well-known in the public domain."

The Kenyatta Government has always been accused of pocketing the money or putting part of it to other use.

Lands PS Dorothy Angote. PHOTO: FILE

Angote said if land ownership had been addressed adequately at independence, land related clashes as witnessed in the post-election violence, would have been avoided.

The PS spoke at the Kenya Institute for Public Policy Research and Analysis (Kippra) workshop that was also attended by Lands Minister James Orengo.

Angote said the land problem was compounded by politicians who failed to make right land policies to correct the wrongs inherited from colonialists and escalated by the Kenyatta Government.

"Our problem dates back to the time Kenya was still a colony. The independence Government inherited draconian land policies and ignored glaring factors that called for urgent measures. The ruling class then used land to bribe politically-correct individuals, rejecting the plight of landless Kenyans," said Angote.

She said for the land issue to be addressed once and for all, Kenyans must own up and be ready for radical reforms.

"We cannot talk for ever. It is time as a country and our leadership reviewed our positions on land and be ready to reform holistically," said Angote.

Will Uhuru support land reforms

In the BBC interview, Uhuru was asked if he would support the proposed land reforms in Kenya.

"Being the son of the first President, would you support land reforms?" BBC asked Uhuru.

Uhuru answered: "Yes, we will support whatever position is taken by Kenyans. We will debate and we shall agree in the end."

However, he declined to declare how much he owns, saying: "That is not a question I will answer. It is not that I don’t want to tell you; it is only that I do not need to tell you. I don’t need to sit on a BBC (interview) and say this is what I have or don’t have."

The money Angote was referring to was given by the British government to partly compensate white settlers who were leaving Kenya and the balance to resettle Kenyans who had lost their land to the settlers.

Orengo said his ministry was committed to ensuring that the country adopted a sound land policy.

"The land policy is before Parliament for debate. We are all committed to ensure that we get our act right on matters pertaining to land," said the minister.

He said land allocation had persistently been skewed to the advantage of a few Kenyans, adding that he was happy with the support the policy Bill had been received by MPs.

"There is so much anxiety out there and we will not disappoint Kenyans on land ownership and administration," said Orengo.

He said unlike in the past, land issues would be handled professionally and welcomed criticism to make the policy acceptable to all.

He said a proposal for an independent land commission should be supported as it would have powers beyond those of the Commissioner of Lands and the President.

Orengo urged all professionals on land matters to contribute to the policy before it was adopted.

In a separate interview, the minister said there were many wrongs on land which must be corrected.

At the same function, the national chairman of the Surveyors Association of Kenya, Mr Mwenda Makathimo, said failure by the independence Government to sort out land ownership concerns was the cause of the endless land disputes in some parts of the country.

Makathimo said the British knew that as they handed over power, land was a major issue and resolved to provide money to help buy land for those they had displaced.

"Politically correct individuals were rewarded with huge chunks, pushing majority of Kenyans to slums and rendering them squatters where they have remained to date," said Makathimo.

A few Kenyans who acquired land left behind by white settlers bought their parcels through co-operative societies. They took bank loans to buy land for members in the Rift Valley.

This is how peasants, most of who had been rendered landless during the Mau Mau liberation war, bought land in the province.

The land question, especially in the Rift Valley, has remained emotive with communities from the Diaspora being accused of acquiring land for free, courtesy of the Kenyatta regime.

Post-election violence in the Rift Valley early this year was sparked partly by the unresolved land question.

Kenyatta and his close allies, especially senior officials in the first Government, cannot escape blame for allocating themselves huge chunks of land in Rift Valley, Central and Coast provinces.