Shelve legal notice on Isiolo land and first engage the community

In recent years, Isiolo has witnessed increased debate over land issues, a situation that has escalated over the past weeks following the issuance in August of Legal Notice No. 150 of 2019 by the Ministry of Lands setting up the entire county as an adjudication area.

The devolved government, which is the trustee of community land in the county, then paid a visit to Lands Cabinet Secretary Farida Karoney and requested an amendment to the legal notice in order to reduce the coverage area of the legal notice.

A faction led by Isiolo Senator Fatuma Dullo and other legislators — including nominated senator Abshiro Halake, Isiolo North MP Hassan Odha, Isiolo North MP Abdi Koropu and Isiolo Woman Rep Rehema Jaldesa called for the revocation of the notice.

They say there are too many land disputes and, if the adjudication is done, the local people stand to lose large tracts.

Burat Ward residents are in court contesting alleged illegal encroachment of their land by the Kenya Defence Forces; there are unresolved boundary disputes between Isiolo and its neighbours, Meru and Garissa.

Why Isiolo County is pushing hard the amendment of the legal notice is worrying. Is there a sinister move behind it?

The current Constitution classifies land under Article 61-62 as public, community or private. This gave a right to the locals, especially the marginalised communities, to their land.

The 2016 Community Land Act provides for the recognition, protection and registration of community land rights, management and administration of community land and sets out the role of county governments in relation to unregistered community land.

The Act also gives the communities opportunities to collectively use and manage land as communally-owned by forming community assemblies and community land management committees.

This would eventually give right to them to freely enter into agreements with investors to enable environmental, economic and social impact assessment, land rehabilitation, capacity building and transfer of technology.

The Act is an amazing piece of legislation that should be lauded for the remedy it will evidently provide if fully relied upon.

Sections 6(1) and (7) provide that, upon registration of the community land, the trusteeship roles of the county government to manage and administer the registered land ceases.

The unregistered land falls under the county government and, with the prevailing corruption, this important role stands to be abused.

The community is yet to register their land and the extent and exact size are yet to be identified despite this being the mandate of the county government.

There is no need to rush the adjudication and end up losing community land to private entities without anyone realising it. Let us engage with the main stakeholders — the public.

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