Whose land is it anyway? The failure of land law reform in Kenya

By Ambreena Manji

This article was originally published on the Africa Research Institute website and is republished with permission.

Land is a "key fault line" in Kenya. Throughout East Africa, land reform has failed to confront the material consequences of unequal access. Since the 1990s, law reform has been the favoured means of addressing contentious land issues. Bilateral and multilateral donors have promoted the rule of law, administrative justice, formalisation of tenure, promotion of individual title, encouragement of property markets and technical solutions – the cornerstone of what has been termed "global land policy". This template has led to land law reform, at the expense of substantive land reform.

New laws have not been redistributive or transformative in a positive way. Longstanding grievances and injustices have not been addressed. Legislation has failed to curtail predatory bureaucracies which in turn have stymied reform through delaying tactics and sabotage. After adopting a progressive National Land Policy and new constitution, Kenya missed a real opportunity to enshrine in law their radical principles for land reform.

Read the rest of the publication on Africa Research Institute's website.

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