News and Information

Kenya to repossess illegal land
December 10, 2004
Kenyan authorities have begun to repossess millions of hectares of public land acquired illegally since independence in 1963, officials say.
Lands and Housing Minister Amos Kimunya said land seized by at least 60 people, including former President Daniel arap Moi, had already been taken back.

The illegal allocation of lands to government allies had been widespread under former administrations, he said.

The report into the seizures has been described as "the tip of the iceberg".

"The problem of land in this country is bigger than anybody can imagine," said Paul Ndungu, who chaired the commission that produced the report.

'Grossly abused'

The report into the illegal grabbing was commissioned by President Mwai Kibaki's government last year.

"The powers vested in the president to make grants of... government land have been grossly abused over the years," the report said.

The allocations had "cost the country dearly in economic, social and political terms", it added.

Former President Daniel arap Moi has reportedly returned land

Many churches, schools, banks and institutions currently sit on seized land - an exercise that started at independence, but intensified during Mr Moi's rule, especially from the mid-1980s to 2002.

Illegally appropriated land includes game reserves, forests, beaches, cemeteries, houses and recreational spaces.

The family of independent Kenya's founding father, Jomo Kenyatta, has also been accused of holding land.

Since the formation of the commission, several senior politicians have surrendered land that they acquired, including former President Moi.

Mr Kimunya also announced the government's intention to create a land title tribunal to deal with complaints in a more streamlined way than could be managed by the courts.

Correspondents say Mr Kibaki is trying to devise the country's first comprehensive land policy to help unpick disputes over property rights amid mounting pressure for reform.

Land is a sensitive matter in Kenya and on several occasions various ethnic groups have fought and killed each other over land, correspondents add.


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