In December 2009, the Kenyan Parliament approved the National Land Policy (NLP), the result of a long and intensive process to develop an equitable land policy. The NLP mandates land restitution or resettlement for those who have been dispossessed and calls for reconsideration of constitutional protection for the property rights of those who obtained their land irregularly. The policy reasserts customary land tenure rights and repudiates the focus on converting customary tenure into individual ownership. According to the Kenya National Dialogue and Reconciliation mediation team, the approval of the NLP is a critical step toward addressing land issues in Kenya. The NLP is supported by the new Constitution of Kenya, adopted in August 2010, which calls for a National Land Policy to ensure that land is held in an equitable, efficient, productive and sustainable manner.
Land and politics have long been entwined in Kenya. The use of land as an object of patronage to engender support and consolidate power has been exacerbated by corruption, forced eviction, government backtracking, and lack of redress for those who have lost land through violence. Insecure land tenure and inequitable access to land and natural resources contribute to conflict, which occurred most recently leading up to and following the disputed December 2007 elections.
Tension also surrounds the management and use of Kenya’s water and forest resources. Chronic water scarcity is leading to violent conflict in drought-stricken areas. Conservation programs and pastoralists compete for land and water resources near parks and protected areas. And demand for forest resources threatens Kenya’s forests.
Legislation has failed to rectify women’s marginal role in the management of land and natural resources. In both the statutory system and customary practice, women’s rights of use and ownership over resources are not equal to those of men.