Kenya Embarks on Land Ownership and Management Reforms

By Ogova Ondego
Published April 28, 2021

Farida Karoney, Minister for Lands and Physical PlanningKenya has embarked on an ambitious land administration and management system.

“Land issues are very sensitive in Kenya and I understand the kind of emotions that it evokes,” says Farida Karoney, the Minister for Lands and Physical Planning. “In recognition of these facts, the Ministry is making deliberate efforts to enhance accountability, transparency and efficiency in land administration and management.”

Addressing land owners and investors under the umbrella of Kenya Alliance of Resident Associations (KARA) in the capital, Nairobi, on February 9, Karoney–through a speech delivered by Land Secretary Esther Ogego–said the Ministry she heads is keen on improving service delivery to them through a strategic plan founded on four key pillars:

  • digitalisation
  • national titling
  • policy, and
  • legal and institutional reforms and decentralisation.

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Karoney said digitalisation, that she termed the priority project of her Ministry,  is anchored on legal reforms.

“We proposed amendments to business laws under what is now cited as the Business Laws (Amendment) Act, 2020 to introduce electronic land transactions and allow for re-engineering of business processes,” said the Minister. “These reforms are in tandem with Article 60 of the Constitution that provides for sustainable land use and management.”

She said it was while digitising land registry record for Nairobi City County (Nairobi Registration Unit) that the need to migrate to a new registration regime arose.

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But this also called for legal framework, the Land Registration Act of 2012 having repealed the Indian Transfer of Property Act of 1882, the Government Lands Act, the Registration of Titles Act, the Land Titles Act and the Registered Land Act that, Karoney argued, had made land registration complex.

“The Land Registration Act seeks to consolidate the above registration regimes by way of a conversion process. This is envisaged under Section 6 of the Act and the Land Registration (Registration Units) Order, 2017,” Karoney said. “The conversion process entails preparation of cadastral maps together with a conversion list indicating the new and the old numbers for parcels of land within the registration unit or registration section/block and their corresponding acreage.”

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Farida Karoney spearheads Kenya ambitious land administration and management system.Saying the Land Registration (Registration Units) Order of 2017 prescribes the migration process to the new registration system, Karoney says the migration process for land parcels within the Nairobi Registration Unit has commenced.

“We have prepared and published cadastral maps and conversion lists for a number of registration sections/blocks. The Ministry is preparing the cadastral maps and conversion lists for the remaining registration sections/blocks for publication. Once this process is completed in Nairobi, we shall embark on converting title deeds in the Metropolis,” she said. “The confusion occasioned by the different regimes had become a breeding ground for fraud, delays in service delivery, centralisation of land services and threats to the right to property.”

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Saying all cadastral maps shall be digitised, making survey databases tamper-proof, Karoney says the land titles conversion process entails:

  • preparation of cadastral maps together with a conversion list indicating new and old numbers for parcels of land within a registration unit or registration section/block and their corresponding acreages;
  • publication of the cadastral maps together with a conversion list in the Kenya Gazette and two daily newspapers. The notice shall specify a date to be the date after which the register shall be open to the public for transactions or dealings within the registration unit;
  • lodging and consideration of complaints within 90 days of receipt;
  • closure of old registers and commencement of transactions in the new register; and
  • application for replacement of title documents in the closed registers.

“The cancellation and replacement will migrate the parcels to the new regime while retaining the ownership, size and the other interests registered against the respective titles. This conversion means that Registry Index Maps (RIMs) will be fully used as registration instruments, replacing the deed plans,” Karoney said. “Boundaries will not be affected because these RIMs are generated from survey plans. Both RIMs and survey plans are accessible to land owners on request for verification of boundary details at the Survey of Kenya. The use of RIMs will minimise fraud. Unlike a deed plan that captures data on one specific parcel, a Registry Index Map displays all land parcels within an area. It is therefore easy to note changes or alterations on an RIM.”

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But, once again noting the sensitivity with which Kenyans treat land issues, the Minister said the Ministry she heads, “to ensure accountability and enhance public confidence in the exercise”, has:

  • developed a catalogue of frequently asked questions posted on the website
  • set up a help desk at Ardhi House, the seat of the Ministry of Lands and Physical Planning
  • conducted media campaigns to sensitise Kenyans on the land titles conversion process
  • sponsored social media platforms to reach out to more stakeholders

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