Environment and Land Court has partnered with the Ministry of Lands and the National Lands Commission (NLC) to ensure that land cases are done in a fair manner.
Presiding Judge of the Environment and Land Court (ELC), Justice Oscar Angote said the Judiciary is committed to give insights to the Ministry of Lands and NLC on how Group ranches can be transitioned to community land.
He said the two bodies when conducting investigations and searches should seek the views of the judiciary to enlighten them on the issues they encounter when solving disputes cases in the ranches.
Justice Angote said it is prudent for pertinent issues regarding land transition to be deliberated on by the relevant bodies to enable the court determine disputes effectively.
“The Judiciary has established mechanisms of resolving disputes so as to have a successful transition of land tenure,” he added.
Angote said there is need to transit from group ranch to community land while abiding to the Community Land Act which has given a road map on how the process should be undertaken.
Justice Angote noted that general boundaries are difficult to define due to their physical nature singling out rivers, rocks, and trees, a need he said requires georeferencing of all boundaries in all counties and urged those undertaking the exercise to abide by the Land Act.
“As a country we have no choice but to transit for the betterment of the community land,” he stressed.
The Judge was speaking during the launch of the report on ‘Monitoring the Transition of Group Ranches to Community Land in Kenya’ by the National Lands Commission (NLC) in Collaboration with Namati Kenya in Nairobi.
The report seeks to track NLC’s progress regarding community land rights and specifically, the compliance with the requirements of the Community Land Act, 2016, and to offer valuable insights into the current status of the transitioning of group ranches in Kenya, the common challenges as well as key recommendations that can assist the country fast-track the implementation of the Community Land Act, 2016.
Justice Angote said the report will not only benefit Kenyans but also guide Judges in the Environment court to resolve disputes.
He said out of the 315 transitions disputes from group ranches to community land only 46 have gone through, attributing the slow pace to conflicts among concerned parties.
The Presiding Judge, at the same time announced that the Judiciary has taken a position that land disputes should be resolved by the Alternative Justice System (AJS), and has been encouraging and training community leaders and elders on how to resolve disputes at their levels
“The Judiciary has launched AJS centres in Samburu, Mandera, Turkana and Kajiado and we are going to launch more to resolve disputes which we anticipate will arise with the migration from group ranches to community land,” he added.
In his remarks, Environment and Land Court Judge sitting in Narok and Kilgoris, Justice Emmanuel Washe, lauded the report as good and progressive and noted that the Judiciary concerns are how the community land should be defined, particularly boundaries in relation to the Land Groups Act.
“There should be an agreement how they define community land so that it can be acceptable to the community including georeferencing. This will enable them to know where it starts and ends and plan development,” said Washe.
Judge Washe cited Narok as having the highest number of group ranches where some have been subdivided and entered into private contracts through leases.
According to the government as of 2023, it is estimated that over 60 percent of all Kenya’s land mass is communally owned and home to over five million indigenous people.
Group ranches were introduced by the colonial government as a means of controlling grazing, since wanton grazing had been blamed for land degradation in the country under the Kenya, Protectorate 1956 and as a compromise between conflicting communal ownership and private ownership interests.