The three successive governments have been blamed for perpetuating land injustices as they have successively promoted unequal land ownership in the country.
Land was also at the centre stage of the recent attacks in the Tana River Delta that saw over 50 people killed. Names of several politicians were mentioned as having incited different communities which led to the bloodbath. The fact that such occurrences usually happen towards the elections is something that worries the nation.
Reverend John Gichimu, the Programmes Coordinator for Theology and Ministerial Formation at OAIC states that land is an emotive issue and says that the various historical injustices with regards to land have yet to be dealt with and this is one of the reason that has led to the various instances of chaos in the country where people claim that certain communities have occupied their land. This he says should be properly scrutinised to solve the issue of land once and for all.
Reverend David Musumba from the Free Pentecostal Fellowship of Kenya (FPFK) in Nakuru notes that the unequal land distributions since independence that have also been perpetrated by the successive governments have been some of the reasons that the issue of land is unresolved.
“After independence and people left the concentration camps to go back to their homes, they found their land had already been allocated other people. We have some of our leaders who have large chunks of land in various areas in this country; does that mean that they were born in all these areas that they have huge tracts of land? The three successive regimes of Kenyatta, Moi and even Kibaki have continued with the trend that the white settlers had started. People in some instances have even referred to them as the black colonizers who have perpetuated more pain than the whites did. How do you explain a single person owning large chunks of land all over the country? Most of the people who were politically connected got land unfairly,” stated Reverend David.
There are indications from various sectors that the people who had the political- know-how and had the money could get land at throw away prices, while those who were not connected could do nothing about it. Some of the issues that the Mombasa Republican Council (MRC) is agitating for is the land ownership in the area as the natives have no place to build their homes. They are agitating for the secession as they feel that the government is not taking charge of their tribulations and land is one of them.
In a debate at a recently held workshop at the Savelberg Retreat Centre, from the 16th to 18th of October, participants noted that after independence, those who were politically connected were able to buy land as well as sell it to their cronies and until recently, the space for buying land in various areas, was a preserve of a few elites.
Reverend Gichimu notes that in Kirinyaga Country at a place called Karunguru, a person owns a 500 acre piece of land which in his view is illogical. This begs the question as to who were the original settlers of that piece of land and where are they currently located for one to be able to won such a colossal piece of land.
“You will always hear some disgruntled voices complaining that their land was taken. Even as they may be living elsewhere, at the back of their heads, they know that their land was taken from them. This is many instances has been the cause of conflict and especially when elections are around the corner and the politicians time and again use these issues to confuse the psyche of the people.
Bishop Betty Onyango from Kisumu County notes that land inheritance injustices are also rampant when it comes to land in his community as communities and family members are increasingly rising up against their own.
“There are many instances where the children have been orphaned, they are taken in by their relatives and in the process, lose their land. When they are old enough and they go back to their homes to demand for land, they face challenges from relatives who are usually the perpetrators. The girls for a long time have had no say and have usually been segregated when it comes to issues of inheriting land from their parents. People have killed each other because of land issues yet a tangible solution is yet to be found,” states Bishop Betty.
The Rift Valley region time and again has had eruptions of violence that in most cases is linked to the land issue in the region. Simon Kibor from Elgeyo Marakwet says that there have been many reasons that have constantly led to the skirmishes and the troubles therein are as a result of land.
He says that the Internally Displaced persons (IDP’s) some of whom were displaced when the government evicted from the Mau Forest and Emboubut forest while some from the Post Election Violence is a cause of worry.
He notes that during the skirmishes, the Kalenjin community was seen as a hostile community and he says that politicians had a lot to do with it as they incited one way or another through their utterances and this has led to the perennial problem. They in his view made people believe that the land other communities are occupying belong to them as they are the rightful owners.
“The issue of land did not start recently. The Kalenjin were misled by the politicians that when they evict the Kikuyu’s, they will get the land that would have been left behind. But this did not happen as they expected them to come and sell their land to Kalenjins cheaply but this has not been the case,” states Kibor.
Bishop Emmanuel Simwa of the OAIC notes that the Kalenjin also felt threatened by the Luhya’s who had been farmers in the Rift valet before they decided to also start farming.
“My father had bought land in the Nandi region. A story goes that when Moi was president, he visited the Luhya’s who had bought land in the Nandi hills and he was given a big bunch of bananas. He took the bunch and went and talked to the Nandi’s and told them. “See what you have done, you have given away your land and others are prospering like this.” There were skirmishes and the two tribes fought badly and many people were killed. At that time, the people who had sold the land to my father begun to bring some conflicts claiming that the land belonged to them and they needed it back. It was a bad battle in the region and we eventually won. We later on sold the land to another Kalenjin family and went back to western Kenya,” he stated.
The bishop notes that in the olden days, the Kalenjin community loved to drink and they would sell their land in exchange for beer. But with time, their children grew up and started demanding for their land which their parents had sold at a throw away prices and this has been some of the reason for the recurrent skirmishes as they feel that they are still entitled to the land even though they sold it through a legal process.
Bishop Betty Onyango who also had a first hand exeperience of the burning of the houses during the 2007/2008 post election violence says that the people who came to burn houses were new faces. No one had ever seen them before and thus it would be difficult to identify them.
“The incidences that happened were just astonishing. A group of young people would come from nowhere, attack a specific house, and within five minutes the house would be burnt down. The intention was to scare away the owners of the land so that they could divide the land amongst themselves. But the people whose houses had been down did not come back to sell the land at a throwaway prices as they had anticipated,” she stated.
She adds that murmurs on the ground are that why should other communities allow the Kikuyu tribesmen to come and prosper in “their land” yet the Kikuyus cannot allow other tribes to go and start successful businesses in their own areas. She says these issues are deeply rooted in the hearts of many people and a solution should be.
Simon Kibor says that after the Post Election Violence, the Kalenjin community felt that the coinstart locations Coinstar Money Transfer, ROMANIA, MARAMURES
International Criminal Court (ICC) had targeted them as 4 of the 6 suspects came from their community. This is despite most of the killings having occurred in the Rift Valley province.
“IDP’s are still in the tents and the community still believes that the ICC targeted them. Why couldn’t they have picked at least one person where the violence erupted. In Mombasa and other places where violence erupted they should have taken leaders from each of those areas to also face charges and that is the thinking of the people on the ground. This is made worse by the politicians playing with the psyche of the communities in the Rift valley,” he stated.
“The issue of IDP’s is also made worse because many people believe that most of the unresettled IDP’s were squatters and as they previously owned nothing in the Rift valley and sometimes it becomes difficult to understand where they came from yet they are demanding to be resettled. This is why there is still a large number of unresettled IDP’s in Rift Valley,” added Kibor.
Mau forest in a water catchment area and the people were evicted as they had encroached on the forest which sustains the livelihoods of a larger percent of the Kenyan people. The community is bitter with the prime Minister for evicting their community from the forest more so the Ogiek community who have lived most of their lives in the forest.
“The Bongomek community which is also known as the Ogiek have always lived in the forests. They would keep bees and hunt and that was their preoccupation for the longest time. They were not previously agriculturalists. So when they were evicted from the forests recently, many people felt that it was unfair as they had nowhere to go to.
Kibor notes that the Kalenjin community also believes that after independence, they were thrown into the reserves, the unproductive areas – while the white highlands and the good parcels of land that was fertile, was given to the political class and their cronies.
“After independence, the Kenyatta government, took the land and subdivided it amongst their friends. Even in other parts of the country, in all the good places you will always find the Kikuyu community with large parcels of land. In Mombasa the Kenyatta family has humongous pieces of land. In the Rift valley this had made people to question how and when the Kikuyu’s were able to acquire the huge tracts of land as this is largely seen as unfair. I am a Kalenjin; I have no problem with the Kikuyu’s, infact my wife is a Kikuyu and thus they are my people too. But the feeling of most people on the ground is that their land was taken unfairly from them. During elections, politicians are known to whip up the emotions of the people on matters to do with land and thus the perennial displacement and fighting,” he noted.
Reverend David Musumba notes that the ideas that the Kalenjin have might hold some water. But they have to understand that some Kikuyu’s were industrious and in the 1990’s while the other communities were still in their rural ancestral areas, the Kikuyu’s were forming cooperative societies which helped them save and they bought land. They were not given the land. But the political elites somehow should be able to explain how they got the good, fertile land in the various areas.
“Those who know the history of this country know that there were the people from the Kikuyu tribe going by the name the Ngwataniro’s and Nyakinyua’s who bought land in the Rift Valley. But the general assumption is that they were given land. They were enlightened more than the other communities, formed companies and bought land. The land issue started a long time ago. In the advent of the Multi party politics in the 1990, the Molo area was burning. In 1997, there were also displacements and in 2007, it hit the scales that we are still talking about,” stated Musumba.
Several reports have linked politicians to the land in Mau. They show that these politicians were allocated land illegally during President Moi’s era and they in turn sold it to unsuspecting people who settled in the Mau forest.
Several participants however, voiced their concerns about the people in the Rift Valley who sell their land to other communities but when they realise that the price has appreciated, they demand it back.
“When president Moi was still in power, she came to address a group of people in the Rift valley and spoke in Kalenjin and said that why is the milk allowed to mix with flies? That was in the year 2000 and this spurred emotions as it simply meant that the Kalenjins – the milk – should stop mixing with the flies – the Kikuyu’s – and this was incitement. This is what politicians are used to doing. The thinking amongst the Kalenjins is that they believe that they own all the animals including all the ones in Kiambu. After circumcision, one is supposed to have bows and arrows and raid other people’s homesteads to get animals. This is a tradition that will take a lot of enlightening to change the perspective,” stated Jane Wamwea from the Rift Valley.
Mr. Kibor is a member of the District Peace Committee says that incitement is one of the issues that they are dealing with in the peace committees. He says that all the concerns that had been raised during the workshop, were also presented to the Truth Justice and Reconciliation Committee (TJRC) as it was collecting views on the perceived historical injustices and he is hopeful that the report will be implemented.
“When the TJRC, came to Eldoret, we told them that the people in the community are still armed. That even after the Post Election Violence, the people were not disarmed and this should be taken seriously to avert a repeat of what happened in 2007/2008. I am glad that the Kalenjin and the Kikuyu elders are part of the peace committee and we are talking to ensure that we preach peace amongst the members of the community.
Reverend Musumba says that the issues of land and conflicts especially in the greater Rift Valley as well as the Northern part of this country between the Marakwet and the Pokots as well as the Turkana is what successive governments have not been able to deal with and this should be taken seriously.
“When they want to disarm these communities that are always in conflict it rarely is successful. These people have become clever and they only give up the old guns but they will never give away the AK 47’S. I happened to witness a raid that took place in the daylight where a young 12 attacked a homestead and he could shoot and not miss his target. These issues need to be addressed,” he stated.
The government should look for ways of solving the land issues as they have cited as one of the major causes of conflict year in year out. As the elections are just around the corner and a presidential debate is neigh, the aspirants should be made to tell the people how they plan to solve these issues.
Fiona Imbali, OAIC Communications.