Knowing Your Community Land Rights

Opinion Blog

Recognition, Protection and Registration of Community Land Rights

Community land is land which vests in and is held by communities identified on the basis of ethnicity, culture or similar community of interest under the tenure systems of either; (a) customary (b) freehold (c) leasehold (d) or such other tenure system recognized under a written law.

Every person has the right, either individually or in association with others, to acquire and own property of any description in any part of Kenya, in accordance with Article 40 of the Kenyan Constitution.

Customary land rights, including those of community land, have equal force and effect in law with freehold or leasehold rights acquired through allocation, registration or transfer for example, subject to Article 40 (3) of the Constitution and the Land Act, no interest in, or right over community land may be compulsorily acquired by the State except in accordance with the law, for a public purpose, and upon prompt payment of just compensation to the person or persons, in full or by negotiated settlement.

To register a community land, the Cabinet Secretary of Lands, in consultation with the respective county governments, develop and publish in the Gazette a comprehensive adjudication programme to ensure that the process of documenting, mapping and developing of the inventory of community land is transparent, cost effective and participatory with the members of the community.

The person responsible for the registration of community land is the Community Land Registrar.

The process of registering community land involves the Cabinet Secretary of Lands by a notice in the Gazette; appoint an adjudication officer in respect of every community registration unit to facilitate, in consultation with the respective county governments, the recording of community land claims, demarcation of community land and delineation of boundaries. Upon adjudication, the title relating to community land is issued to the registered community by the Community Land Registrar.

Community land maybe held as; communal land; family or clan land; reserve land; and any other category of land recognized under a written law.

Administration and management of community land

A registered community must have a community assembly which shall consist of all adult members of the community. The community assembly shall elect between seven and fifteen members of the community assembly to constitute the community Land Management Committee for the administration and management of the community land.

Any decision of a registered community to dispose of or otherwise alienate community land is binding if it is supported by at least two thirds of the community assembly, while all other decisions of the registered community shall be by a simple majority of the members present in a meeting.

Nature of community land title

Upon registration of a community land, the community is issued with a Certificate of Title which gives the community the absolute ownership of that land together with all rights and privileges attached to the land.

This certificate is considered by courts as factual evidence that the person named as proprietor of the land is the absolute and indefeasible owner

Conversion of community land

A registered community shall, before the conversion of registered community land into either public, private land or any other category of land, seek and obtain approval from two thirds of the community assembly for instance;

  • Community land may be converted to public land by compulsory acquisition; transfer; or surrender.
  • Community land may be converted to private land through transfer; or allocation by the registered community.
  • Public land may be converted to community land by allocation by the National Land Commission in accordance with the Land Act, 2012 (No. 6 of 2012).
  • Private land may be converted to community land by transfer; surrender; operation of the law in relation to illegally acquired community land; or operation of any other written law.

Special rights and entitlements in the community land

A registered community may upon application and with approval of the members of the community assembly, allocate part of its registered community land to a member or a group of members of the community for exclusive use and occupation for such period as the registered community shall determine.

These occupations may include (a) farming areas; (b) settlement areas; (c) community conservation areas; (d) access and rights of way; (e) cultural and religious sites; (f) urban development; or (g) any other purpose as may be determined by the community, county government or national government for the promotion of public interest.

However, an individual entitlement shall not be superior to community title in any way.

Environment and natural resources management

Natural resources found on community land shall be used and managed sustainably and productively; for the benefit of the whole community including future generations; with transparency and accountability; and on the basis of equitable sharing of accruing benefits among the community members.

Settlement of disputes relating to community land

For purposes of settling disputes and conflicts involving community land, registered communities are encouraged to use alternative methods of dispute resolution mechanisms including traditional dispute and conflict resolution mechanisms and internal dispute resolution mechanisms set out in the respective community by-laws.

The methodologies used in dispute resolution over community land include,

  • Mediation
  • Arbitration
  • Judicial proceedings

 

By:

Jack Odiwa, Local Expert-AJS

AGCP-Kituo Cha Sheria

 

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Published by

Kituo Cha Sheria

Legal Advice Center

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