During the campaign period ahead of the 2022 General Elections, one of the main talking points was the land reforms contained in President William Ruto’s manifesto.
When he took over the reins at the house on the hill, many Kenyans were optimistic that the Head of State would put in place policies to improve their lives.
However, one year down the line, the reality has been very different as the President has pronounced policies that have had a negative effect on the lives of Kenyans.
From thousands of Mavoko residents being forced to leave their homes to entire commissions losing their powers, the directives have been received differently by various Kenyans. The government meanwhile, maintains that the policies have been effected for the country’s greater good.
A collage of houses under demolition in contested East African Portland Cement (EAPC Plc) land in Machakos County on October 17, 2023.
Here are six such directives and their effects on affected individuals.
1. Mavoko Evictions
Thousands of families were evicted from Athi River land in Mavoko after President William Ruto revoked all title deeds of undeveloped land.
The directive was issued a day after a court ruling in which a suit filed in 2014 by some of the occupants of the land was dismissed by a Machakos Court.
“It is hereby ordered that the Plaintiff’s suit be and is hereby struck out with costs to the Defendant, a copy of the proceeding and today’s ruling be supplied to the parties on payment of court fees,” ruled Lady Justice A. Nyukuri.
After his directive, mansions estimated to be worth billions of shillings were demolished with an estimated 33 churches expected to be flattened in due course.
The opposition as well as Machakos County leaders expressed their displeasure with the move but the state remains unperturbed in its quest to recover the land belonging to the East Africa Portland Cement Company (EAPCC).
2. Cutting NLC’s powers
In May, President William Ruto rattled some quarters after he transferred some mandates of the National Lands Commission (NLC) to the Ministry of Lands.
While making the roadside directive, Ruto insisted that the move was meant to bring to an end the unfair and corrupt era of the Commission in land compensation.
“We want to make sure that every Kenyan is compensated fairly,” he stated at the time.
The opposition headed by Raila Odinga, however, labeled the directive illegal and unconstitutional arguing that it would open the door for the misuse of powers.
3. Taxing Idle Land
In February, the Ministry of Lands under firm instructions from the Head of State shocked land owners when it unveiled plans to tax individuals sitting on undeveloped land.
Housing Principal Secretary Charles Hinga stated that taxing idle land would serve as a deterrent to owners who hoard land without putting it to productive use.
The taxation measure, he noted, would help to avail more land to develop housing units under the Affordable Housing Plan.
Kenyans were, however, opposed to the plans arguing that some families would be forced to part with their ancestral land which they hold for sentimental value.
4. Subdivision of Galana Kulalu
An aerial view of Galana Kulalu project in the Coast Region.
A few months after occupying the top office, the Head of State swiftly stopped the planned sub-division of the Galana-Kulalu land earmarked for an irrigation project.
At the time, the head of state insisted that the land should be used for maize production and promised to develop a dam to service it.
“I direct Private Sector and GOK (the National Irrigation Authority) under a Public-Private Partnership (PPP) to work on the ready 10,000 acres to produce food starting with maize in February,” he directed at the time.
The directive dismantled a plan by the former President Uhuru Kenyatta’s administration which in 2021 invited private players to partner with the state in producing foodstuff.
5. Eviction of Families in Kiambu
When he assumed the Presidency, the Head of State unveiled an ambitious plan to deliver 200,000 affordable housing units every year.
To achieve the milestone, the Head of State had to crack down on alleged landgrabbers including those who annexed the government’s land in Kiambu County.
“We want to build houses for citizens at an affordable cost. We want to remove slums so that every citizen can stay at a respectable place where they can afford,” he stated towards the end of September.
His administration targets to put up 10,000 housing units on the parcel
6. Re-Introduction of Logging
In July, the President disappointed environmentally conscious quarters after lifting a logging ban that had been instituted by his predecessor six years ago.
In his directive, the Head of State defended his move explaining that he ban had contributed to the dwindled fortunes.
“People are struggling on where to get timber, yet trees are decaying in forests. We have lifted the ban so that we can harvest mature trees,” the President stated.
The Environment Court, however, froze his directive after the Law Society of Kenya (LSK) moved to court.
The Environment Court ruled that lifting the moratorium was done without proactive disclosure of information and public participation.
LSK had argued that there were no scientific reasons or research that had been done to justify the lifting of the ban.
A photo of tree logs awaiting transportation to a timber mill in Kenya.