Declaration in Support of the Timely Implementation of Kenya’s Community Land Act
In 2016, Kenya enacted the Community Land Act, a law that enables local communities to legally register, own, and manage their communal lands. Despite the passage of this progressive legislation, implementation of the law continues to be delayed, with the Ministry of Lands yet to put in place the necessary personnel and structure to facilitate community land registration. This has left an estimated 3.5 million people unable to register their communal lands, covering roughly 390,000 square kilometers, or 67% of Kenya’s total landmass.
We, organizations working on land and natural resource rights in Kenya, are deeply concerned by the continued delay by the Ministry of Lands to appoint community land registrars to facilitate the community land registration in counties. Justice delayed is justice denied. Additionally, the Ministry, in partnership with county governments, are yet to develop an inventory of all community lands in Kenya and roll out a public awareness programme on the law. This is despite clear timelines stipulated in the Community Land Act regulations gazetted through legal notice number 180.
We applauded the initiative and efforts of the eleven communities from Isiolo, Kajiado, Laikipia, Tana River, and Turkana counties that walked to Kenya’s Ministry of Lands on July 24 to submit their forms for recognition of their claim to land.
Each of the communities met all of the requirements of the Community Land Act. They drafted and adopted detailed bylaws for local land management and governance, and elected Community Land Management Committees to manage the day-to-day affairs of the communities’ land and natural resources. Each community also agreed on their boundaries with neighboring communities and created evidence of their land claims by making maps. Some communities created detailed maps using GPS while others drew maps based on natural boundaries like rivers and mountains.
Their forms and supporting documents were received by the Department of Adjudication and Settlement for processing and we hope that this marks the beginning of swift action from the Ministry of Land. As reported in the media, the Ministry promised that the applications will be processed and community land registrars will be in place within the next four months.
The events on July 24th indicate that a number of communities in Kenya have met all the requirements of the Community Land Act and are ready to have their land registered. The communities have done their part – it high time the Ministry did its part.
We affirm and support claims by communities in Kenya over their customary and indigenous lands and call upon the Ministry of Lands to move swiftly to implement the law. We further offer our commitment to support the Ministry in ensuring timely implementation of the law and secure tenure rights for communities in Kenya. We also call upon county governments as trustees of unregistered lands to submit inventories to the Ministry of Lands of all community lands in their counties.
We remind counties that their role as trustees has legal limitations – they are not to sell, transfer, or convert for private purposes any unregistered community land. Counties have a role in ensuring that communities are organized and prepared for registration. Counties should therefore dedicate budgets to support communities to meet all the requirements of the law.
- Immediately gazette and deploy Community Land Registration Units in accordance with the Land Registration Act of 2012.
- Appoint, train, and deploy Community Land Registrars to each of the Community Land Registration Units to facilitate the processing of community land claims.
- Implement the legally mandated national public awareness programme on the Community Land Act.
- Provide detailed guidance to county governments on the legally managed submission of community land inventories for each county.
- Process the submitted applications from the 11 communities in a timely manner.