By Agnes Mwangangi
Opposition leader Raila Odinga says he has no apologies to make over remarks he made while campaigning in Kajiado on Thursday urging the Maa community not to sell off their ancestral property.
In a statement, Odinga defended his sentiments acknowledging the said land was lost through historical injustices as documented in the Truth, Justice and Reconciliation report whose recommendations have not been implemented.
“The National Land Policy which provided the jurisprudence and framework for the chapter on land in the Constitution, and which addressed the issues of historical land injustices perpetrated against the communities in the Rift Valley, Central and the Coast and the challenges facing marginalized and indigenous communities, set up the roadmap for resolving the land issue in these areas. It is for this reason that Article 67 (e) offers a mechanism for investigating into present or historical land injustices and the rendering of redress. Unless the Constitution is amended, the land question cannot be wished away.”
“In the meantime we continue asking those who are registered as proprietors to stop selling land that they hold in trust. This is what we were urging in Kajiado. We told the proprietors that they must put the interests of the young Maasai people first because it is for them that they hold the land.”
Raila said if they form the Government after the next general elections they will uphold all rights and fundamental freedoms including as guaranteed under Article 40 of the Constitution.
He promised to implement Chapter Five of the Constitution on Land and Environment and protect not just private land but public and Community land as well.
He said that prior to the negotiations for 2010 constitution; there were growing concerns over the rate at which marginalized communities in the country including the Maa were selling ancestral lands and trust lands. The Maa community he said has always valued land not for cash but for grazing of their cattle adding that neglect and abuse is now forcing them to trade in their birth right for survival.
Raila accused the Jubilee administration for refusing to enact laws to protect marginalized communities. He said the Community Lands Act, 2016 placed the powers over community lands in the hands of the Cabinet Secretary for lands hence downplaying the roles of County Governments and the National Land Commission.
The NASA Presidential candidate said the solution lies in the implementation of the Truth Justice and Reconciliation Commission.
ODM Secretary General Agnes Zani stated that Odinga’s statements were made with the social and economic empowerment of the community in mind.
“NASA will economically and socially empower all the marginalized communities in Kenya including the Maa Community. No amount of twisting words will negate this noble intention. Many other communities including those in the Coast need empowerment, something the Jubilee government has not been able to do. The TJRC report clearly indicated how these communities would have their historical injustices addressed. Its recommendations have not been implemented during this term. Addressing poverty is a key pillar in NASA. One way to address poverty is to retain ancestral assets and build up on them, economically and socially speaking this is evident, and cannot be hate speech.”
Nominated Senator Elizabeth Ongoro Monday morning defended her former party leader and preferred presidential candidate accusing the ruling party of seeking to sanitize its own reckless remarks by crucifying Odinga.
The remarks by Odinga are not the only ones that have attracted sharp criticism.
National Assembly Majority leader Adan Duale who on Sunday called for Odinga’s arrest was in the recent past criticized for allegedly urging his constituents to eject a communiity from Garissa County.
On Sunday, President Uhuru Kenyatta accused the opposition of using divisive tact in a bid to win political support.
Meanwhile, the National Cohesion and Integration Commission (NCIC) has been urged to take swift action on hate mongers in order to uphold sanity during the electioneering period.
In a statement, the Myoot council of elders drawn from Elgeyo Marakwet, noted that negative ethnic sentiments and hate speech propagated by politicians are likely to impair the social fabric ahead of the polls.
Led by major (rtd) John Seii, the elders expressed concern over the slow pace by the cohesion body in bringing to book those who want to divide citizens on the basis of tribal affiliation.
Seii said the high stake politics currently witnessed in most counties coupled with lack of dispute resolution mechanisms to address grievances on timely basis is a cause for worry and should not be wished away.
He further said that this is the best time for NCIC to act firmly and liaise with the electoral body in blacklisting and shaming those whose actions threaten the existing peace.