26 September 2006

Kenya: Cancel Karura Forest Title Deeds, Ndung'u Tells State

Nairobi — All title deeds of illegally allocated land in Karura Forest should be placed under a caveat to ensure beneficiaries do not use or develop them.

A caveat is a legal prohibition that a property under question cannot be resold, developed or altered.

Mr Paul Ndung'u, who chaired the commission that inquired into illegally allocated land, proposed that a caveat be placed on all the forestland titles to stop the beneficiaries from reselling the land or mortgaging them.

And University of Nairobi lecturer, Prof Okoth Ogendo, proposed the amendment of the Government Land Act to tame future presidents from misusing their powers to allocate public land.

The former Constitution of Kenya Review Commission Vice-Chairman said the amendment should be included in the proposed minimum reforms.

Act gives presidents authority to allocate public land

Ogendo and Ndung'u spoke when the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights and the Kenya Land Alliance launched a report on land grabbing in Nairobi.

Ogendo said the Act in place gave the presidents full authority to allocate public land as they wished.

He said the vice had gone on for a long time and because the Commissioner of Lands is the principal agent of the president, the officer can, on his own, allocate land as he wishes.

Under the current law, said Ogendo, the Government behaves like the private owner of the public land, but the proposed Land Act would make the president a trustee of public land.

"The current law allows the Government to grab and excise public land. We need to change this law so that the president becomes the trustee of this State resource," said Ogendo.

Report proposes recovery of money

He said there was need for those entrusted with advising President Kibaki to ensure that land matters were not treated like in the previous regime, where the president could allocate public land for political patronage.

The report recommends the recovery of all monies unjustly gotten through illegal allocation of public land.

The report also recommends the prosecution of individuals, officials, companies and professionals involved in illegal allocations.

The report also calls on professional bodies to take action against their members who may have been involved in the theft of public resources.

All public officers involved in the vice should also be barred from holding office, the report suggests.

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