Saturday, 24 March 2012

Who Owns Kenya?

Who owns Kenya?
« Who’s to blame? It depends where you begin the story »EXCLUSIVE
By Otsieno Namwaya, East African Standard
Kenya’s two former First Families and the family of President Mwai Kibaki are among
the biggest landowners in the country.
A residual class of white settlers and a group of former and current power brokers in the
three post independent regimes follow them closely while a few businessmen and farmers,


many with either current or past political connections, also own hundreds of thousands of
acres.
The extended Kenyatta family alone owns an estimated 500,000 acres approximately
the size of Nyanza Province according to estimates by independent surveyors and
Ministry of Lands officials who spoke on condition of anonymity.
The Kibaki and Moi families also own large tracts of land though most of the Moi family
land is held in the names of his sons and daughters and other close family members.
Most of the holders of the huge parcels of land are concentrated within the 17.2 per cent
part of the country that is arable. The remaining 80 per cent is mostly arid and semi arid
land.
In fact, according to the Kenya Land Alliance, more than a half of the arable land in the
country is in the hands of only 20 per cent of the 30 million Kenyans. That has left up to
13 per cent of the population absolutely landless while another 67 per cent on average
own less than an acre per person.
The building land crises in the country, experts say, will be difficult to solve because the
most powerful people in the country are also among its biggest landowners.
The tracts of land under the Kenyatta family are so widely distributed within the
numerous members in various parts of the country that it is an almost impossible task to
locate all of them and establish their exact sizes.
During Kenyatta’s 15-year tenure in State House, there was an elaborate scheme funded
by the World Bank and the British Government, the Settlement Transfer Fund Scheme,
under which the family legally acquired large pieces of land all over the country.
Among the best-known parcels owned by Kenyatta’s family, for instance, are the 24, 000
acres in Taveta sub-district adjacent to the 74, 000 acres owned by former MP Basil
Criticos.
Others are 50, 000 acres in Taita that is currently under Mrs Beth Mugo, an Assistant
minister of Education and niece of the first President, 29, 000 acres in Kahawa Sukari
along the Nairobi Thika highway, the 10, 000 acre Gichea Farm in Gatundu, 5, 000
acres in Thika, 9,000 acres in Kasarani and the 5, 000-acre Muthaita Farm. These are
beside others such as Brookside Farm, Green Lee Estate, Njagu Farm in Juja, a quarry
in Dandora in Nairobi and a 10, 000-acre ranch in Naivasha.
The acreage quoted in this report is not extracted from official government records
there are none and those that exist are scattered and some cases incomplete but are
estimates based on close to a year of interviews with farm staff, independent surveyors,
Ministry of Lands experts and land rights NGOs.
Other pieces of land owned by the Kenyatta family include the 52,000-acre farm in
Nakuru and a 20,000-acre one, also known as Gichea Farm, in Bahati under Kenyatta’s
daughter, Margaret. Besides, Mama Ngina Kenyatta, widow of the former President,
owns another 10, 000 acres in Rumuruti while a close relative of the Kenyatta family, a
Mrs Kamau, has 40,000 acres in Endebes in the Rift Valley Province.
It is understood that in the late 1990s, the Kenyatta family started considering the
possibility of disposing of parts of the land in Nairobi.
In the lead-up to the 2002 general elections, for instance, there were indications that the
family was considering selling the 100-acre piece of land in Karen. But even with that,
the Kenyatta family would still own a sizeable part of Nairobi, such as the 1,000-acre
farm in Dagoretti owned by Kenyatta’s first wife Wahu.
It is also understood that part of the land on which Kenyatta and Jomo Kenyatta
Universities are constructed initially belonged the Criticos family. The government
bought the land from him in 1972 under the Settlement Transfer Fund Scheme.
It is alleged, though there is little compelling evidence, that the land was transferred to
the Kenyatta family the same day Criticos sold it to the government.
Neither is it clear how much the family paid for it.
Land for the two universities was subsequently donated by the family.
Under President Kenyatta, most of the power wielders either formed or were associated
with land buying companies through which they acquired huge chunks of land around the
country, especially at the Coast and in Rift Valley.
They took most of the land previously owned by the former white settlers, which had
initially been earmarked for resettling those who had been turned into squatters by the
colonial land policies.
One of the most famous land buying companies was Gema Holdings.
Most of the people including retired President Moi and his former Vice President,
Mwai Kibaki who had considerable political influence in the Kenyatta regime, were
given the opportunity to buy as much land as they could.
One of President Kibaki’s earliest acquisitions is the 1,200-acre Gingalily Farm along
the Nakuru-Solai road. He bought it in the late 1960s.
And in the 1970s, Kibaki, who was then the minister for Finance under Kenyatta, bought
10, 000 acres in Bahati from the then Agriculture minister Bruce Mckenzie. Kibaki also
owns another 10, 000 acres at Igwamiti in Laikipia and 10, 000 acres in Rumuruti in
Naivasha.
These are in addition to the 1,600 acre Ruare Ranch that came to the limelight when it
caught fire last year.
Just next to Kibaki’s Bahati land are Moi’s 20, 000 acres although his best known piece
of land is the 1,600 Kabarak Farm on which he has retired. It is one of the most well
utilised farms in the area, with wheat, maize and dairy cattle.
The former President owns another 20, 000 acres in Olenguruoni in Rift Valley, on which
he is growing tea and has also built the Kiptakich Tea Factory. He also has some 20, 000
acres in Molo.
He also has another 3, 000-acre farm in Bahati on both sides of the Nakuru/Nyahururu
road where he grows coffee and some 400 acres in Nakuru on which he was initially
growing coffee.
The former President also owns the controversy ridden 50, 000 acre Ol Pajeta Farm
part of which has Ol Pajeta ranch in Rumuruti, Laikipia. Last year, the family put out an
advert in the press warning the public that some unknown people were sub-dividing and
selling it.
Land transactions are ongoing and some of these farms may have changed hands.
Lands minister Amos Kimunya said yesterday the Government is formulating a land
policy, which will address the question of idle land.
“If it is lying idle, the Government will definitely apply the law to the letter to ensure it is
put to productive use,” he said.
“The policy is being developed by the people. At the end of it all, views that emerge are to
be synthesised to come up with prudent policy.” But the Government has no quarrel with
the size of land one owns. “The question is, is that land, notwithstanding the size, being
put to productive use?”

Feb 4th, 2008 by Daudi Kahura
Friday October 1, 2004
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