Opportunities and challenges of Kenya’s Community Land Act
In 2016, Kenya acknowledged customary tenure as producing lawful property rights, not merely rights of occupation and use on government or public lands. The 25-page article “The Community Land Act in Kenya: opportunity and challenges for communities” (2018) by Liz Alden Wily, published in the journal Land 7, 12 (doi:10.3390/land7010012), looks into this new legal environment, which promises land security for 6–10 million Kenyans, most of them members of pastoralist or other poor rural communities.
After some background on legal trends in Africa, the focus is on Kenya’s Community Land Act (2016) as the framework through which customary holdings are to be identified and registered. It is concluded that, while Kenya’s law is positive and even cutting-edge in some respects, legal loopholes put communities at risk that their land is not as secure as promised ahead of formalisation, and they risk losing some of their most valuable land during the formalisation process. This is mainly due to overlapping claims by the national and local government authorities. Political will to apply the law is weak. Solely the law is not enough to secure social change. The assistance of non-state actors will be needed to help communities secure their lands under formal collective entitlements.