By Said Jillo
Land as a factor of production is prone to exploit all over the globe and it isn’t any different with the scenario in Isiolo county today. Man as always find himself in land related conflict since time immemorial. Issues of contention all through history have been the the tendency of the haves trying to exploit the haves not, this is a clear depiction of what is at play for long in Isiolo. The raging debate is between the liberal minds and land grabbers who will always seize every single opportunity to reap from where they have never sowed.
For several months we have had to endure a politically charged environment which has divided our society into two camps; The pro-Legal Notice No. 150 (Team Adjudication) and anti-Legal Notice (Team Revoke). Whereas the brigades are led by leaders allied to Isiolo County Government and the County Assembly and on the other hand by selfless national figures in both Houses of Parliaments, professionals and Human Right activist who agitate for the rights of the community. The contest is marred with political rhetorics and shenanigans from those who are in favour of adjudication. This particular group have failed to clearly convinced the masses alluding to the manner in which they are trying to push their take on the people, through either hook or crook means. Their hope and wish is pegged on a stale narratives of acquiring title to enable residents get loan facilities from commercial banks. Methinks this is an elusive and hollow thought that has no basis. Mere acquisition of paper to prove ownership can sufficiently catered for by the Community Land Act 2016, which adequately protect the land from possible unscrupulous grabbers. Hence let us leave that for another day.
My main concern is to address the dangers posed by the gazette notice and why we should desist it in toto. A closer scrutiny of the document pokes hole into both motive and timing of the notice. First and foremost we learnt of the changes through the media, which perturbed most of us as it was closely hidden from Isiolo people. As the issue got into the public discourse it is openly known that the process was initiated by the County Government in collaboration with our lame duck County Assembly without following the due process of the law. This is enough indicator that borders on ill-motive with which the infamous illegal notice was drafted. It is crystal clear that those entrusted with power by the people were out to misuse their post to their advantage. If not why keep the public in darkness, your guess is as good as mine.
Furthermore, the retreat made by the governor when the issue got into public domain is all together loud and clear. He resorted for amendment of the legal notice when he was unable to withstand the pressure from the resilient people of Isiolo County. This outright malice is least expected from leader of his calibre. If indeed he was clean on the issue why sudden about turn?
JUSTICE LENAOLA’S RULING
I wish now to shift focus on the demerits or illegality of the notice. It is public domain that the document was in contempt of court, based on PETITION No 511 OF 2015, which clearly stated that no adjudication should be done in both Meru and Isiolo counties until the boundary issue is resolved. Was the county government, assembly and even the Cabinet Secretary are not aware of the conflict and judgement passed or they deliberately chose to defy it? Did the County Government register all unregistered community land as enshrined in the Community Land Act.
Moreover, the legal notice defied most of the crucial element in regard to land related conflict. Land in contention between the community and KDF Schools and Holding ground were exempted from adjudication. This means the architect of the document wanted to short change people living on those parcel of land yet it is clear the community have been peacefully co-existing mutually in their ancestral land.
The other pitfall in the document is, exemption of the Resort city and LAPPSET route land from adjudication. This was drafted with sole aim of denying those owning parcels of land on the mega project from compensation hence an outright violation of their right, as well as create a window for the tycoon grabbers to benefit at the expense of the community. A version that is synonymous with most mega projects in Africa. An illustration is the construction of Isiolo International Airport and an abattoir in Burat. In both cases, the land owners were evicted without compensation.
The Ministry of Land and Physical Planning in issuing the directive also ignored fundamental element such as the public participation. It is known to all and sundry most of the ASAL region livelihood depends on nomadic lifestyle that strive well on communal basis hence their change of land tenure system clearly violated their rights, will disrupt the economy and it is a recipe for disaster. This brazen negligence is due to the sinister motive behind this move. In any case the framers of the constitution were alive to this realities hence they provided provision for community land which is ignored in the Legal Notice No.- 150.
Finally, we should collectively review our stand regardless of our political affiliations to stop an impending and looming disaster as a result of this change. Let us swallow our pride and rectify the mess before it is too late. I urge the Cabinet Secretary, County Government and all other stakeholders that are advocating for adjudication to reconsider their stand for the sake of protecting our ancestral land.
Said Jillo is a conservationist based in Taita Taveta County and writes on environmental issues. He can be reached via email@example.com