What I think about land...
("The world is not ours, the earth is not ours, it's a treasure we hold in trust for future generations". – African Proverb.)
I do not believe that land should be privately owned. Individuals should not be allowed own land (by law, custom, culture or any other code) but they should be able to access it and use it for their own survival and the survival of the nation.
As the most supreme and most important natural resource, land should be conceptualized as a higher order resource, indeed a factor of survival that should be beyond anyone to claim ownership of.
There cannot be equity in access and use of land (tenure) in a social, economic, political and customary context and a regime that permits individualized ownership of land.
Our survival as a people is at risk if we allowed the perpetuation of a system of land management that thrives on the speculative use of land for personal profit.
The current reformist efforts to address the Kenyan land problem are in my view weak-kneed and they are held tightly 'in the leash', in the interests of the very elite forces. Even when their formulation pretends public participation, at their core is the preservation of the interests of land holders and speculators – who are unfortunately also in positions of power.
Those reformist efforts have failed to address the issue of ethnic politics in respect to land and instead pretended that policy and legal fixes are the panacea of addressing land problems in Kenya.
What I imagine might work....
A radical shift in our conceptualization of land. We need to free land from the domain of individual, emotive, greedy pursuits of individualized appropriation and hoarding.
This will require a shift of Kenya from a country where primordial connections to land, by especially men (both poor and rich) and wealthy women, both rural and urban, are replaced with a progressive philosophy and value base that views and manages land as a common heritage that is too important to be vested in private ownership and speculative market forces.
A progressive government, matched with a radically transformed idea of the state, that will hold all the land in Kenya in genuine trust of the peoples of Kenya and roll out a system which:
Revokes all individual and group title deeds over a short period of time and transfers all land to the trust of the peoples of Kenya. To preserve the rights of use of those who have falsely been led to believe that they can own a piece of earth, land use, permits/licences/authorization cards based on sound, approved plans (contracts) of use in a way that serves both the private and public interest. Such permits ensure security and freedom from arbitrary acts against individuals who hold them from the state and any parties.
Is transparent and equitable and enables access and use of land by individuals and groups for their own survival as well as the survival and thriving of the nation as a collective.
Sets high standards on land use once accessed and aligns it with the development master plan of all the people of Kenya on issues such as: food security, economic growth and improvement on the quality of life of citizens; peace, security and stability; housing, environmental health, demographic trends, etc.
Puts in place transparent mechanisms to protect qualifying land users and ensure security of tenure.
Liberate all land in Kenya from the dominion of land lords and make it equitably accessible to those who seek and qualify for authority to use it for the common, public good.
Is this reasonable...?
I doubt it, but it does not need to be. I believe as Kenyans we have to be unreasonable about a lot of things in this country. To contemplate how we may liberate our lands from the unjust appropriation and hoarding by private interest may not be something in the realm of reasonableness. A whole overthrow of the way governance, leadership and public service are conceptualized and practiced in our country is urgently needed.
I do not believe even the progressive elements in the reformist policy and legislative fixes match the urgency with which we must resolve the land problem in Kenya. There is urgent need for dreamers who can dare experiment with a new way of viewing and using land. These dreamers will make it possible for Kenyans – for once – stop trading in land and begin trading on land – for the benefit of present and future generations.