Kenyans who suffered historical land injustices have until September 2 this year to submit their grievances to the National Land Commission (NLC) or forever hold their peace.
Section 38 of the omnibus Land Laws Amendment Act No. 28 of 2016 amended Section 15 of the National Land Commission Act 2012 and gave a five-year period within which aggrieved parties of historical land injustices could submit their claims to the commission.
According to the amended Section 15 (3) (e) of the NLC Act, a historical land claim may only be admitted, registered and processed by the commission if it is, among other criteria, brought within five years from the date of commencement of the Act.
Had the amendment not been done, the timeline for submission of such claims would have elapsed in 2017, five years after the National Land Commission Act 2012 was assented to.
However, despite the extension of time under the Land Laws Amendment Act 2016, many aggrieved Kenyans, especially those in the Coastal region, have not seized the opportunity to submit their claims to the commission, ostensibly out of ignorance.
Land activists in Kilifi County are worried that many Kenyans, especially those in the Coastal region where many land injustices are believed to have been committed by the Colonialists and subsequent governments after independence, are not aware of the deadline and could be locked out.
Stembo Kaviha, a land activist in Sabaki Ward, believes that Kenyans have not been sensitized enough on the provision and wants urgent measures to be taken to enlighten them so they can submit their claims in time.
According to Kaviha, the National Government through the Ministry of Land and the National Land Commission, as well as the Kilifi County Government, failed in their mandates to ensure all grieved persons know about the provision so that no one is left out when the commission addresses the matters.
He now wants the government to allow grassroots administrators (chiefs and their assistants) as well as community-based organizations to hold sensitization meetings so that those who have claims can submit them before the deadline.
“I urge the government to move with speed and ensure all persons who suffered historical land injustices know that they should submit their claims,” he told journalists in Malindi Town Monday and urged the government to fund CBOs to carry out the sensitization sessions.
“I am appealing to the relevant authorities to extend the deadline, but if this is not possible, let us be allowed to hold small meeting in compliance with the Covid-19 protocols so that we can educate wananchi on the need to submit their claims to the commission before September 21,” he said.
Kaviha noted that land clinics conducted by the Kilifi County Government’s Department of Land last year did not adequately address matters regarding historical land injustices as they were done at the spur of the moment to stop people from selling their newly acquired lands.
Mr. Raphael Mzungu Ngoma, the Executive Director of the Institute of Participatory Development (IPD), urged the residents of Kilifi and the Coastal region in general, to immediately submit any claims of historical injustices.
He said it was the responsibility of everybody – individuals, political leaders, religious leaders and community-based organizations – to ensure that all persons affected by historical are sensitized so that they submit their claims.
“This law started taking effect from September 21, 2016 and on September 21, 2021, the commission will not receive any further claims of historical injustice,” he said adding, “It is our responsibility to ensure that we submit those claims for our claims to be looked into,” he said.
He called on individuals who have grievances but cannot read or write to seek help from individuals and organizations so that they are not left out when the commission starts addressing historical land injustices after the deadline.
He urged political and administrative leaders to be at the forefront in educating Kenyans on the need to have their claims captured as the NLC would no longer be able to collect more claims after September 21, 2021.
The Act requires claimants to verify that the injustice complained of resulted in displacement of the claimant or other forms of historical injustices and that the claim has not and is not capable of being addressed through the ordinary court system.
The claimant, according to the Act, should also have been either a proprietor or occupant of the land upon which the claim is based that no action on the part of the claimant amounts to surrender or renouncement of the right to the land in question.
The section states that a historical land injustice means a grievance that was occasioned by a violation of right in land on the basis of any law, policy, declaration, administrative practice, treaty or agreement.
Such injustice should also have resulted in the displacement of the claimant(s) from their habitual place(s) of residence and must have occurred between June 15, 1895 when Kenya became a Protectorate under the British East African Protectorate and August 27, 2010 when the Constitution of Kenya was promulgated.
Residents of the Coastal Region have for decades complained that their land was forcefully taken from them first by the Arabs and later by colonialists and neo-colonialists and have cried for redress.
Historical land injustices are believed to be the genesis of the never-ending squatter menace in the region, especially along the ten-mile coastal strip where the Mazrui family owns huge chunks of land that is full of squatters.
In Magarini Sub County, residents have complained of their land being taken over by salt manufacturing companies, while tycoons from various parts of the country are said to have used various influences to fraudulently acquire land and kicked out indigenous owners.