Mjadala III: Land and National Cohesion: How can we transform land into a uniting factor in Kenya today?

Peter Ole Musei Executive Director, Pastoralists Concern
Lydia Mukami Chairperson, Mwea Foundation
Patrick Ochieng' Executive Director, Ujamaa Centre
Orwa Michael Programme Manager, Society for International Development

Land remains an emotive issue in Kenya and an unrelenting root cause of national tensions. RecentLamu eruptions remind us of the potency of unresolved historical injustices around land. Land was also cited as a contributor to the post-election violence in 2007/8. In urban centresparticularly, property developers and citizen communities often clash over contested ownership of (non-)public land. While the ethnic dimension is strongest in the narrative of Kenya’s land-related tensions and injustices, there are also race, nationality, class and gender dimensions to the land question.

In partnership with the AWAAZ SAMOSA FESTIVAL 2014, the Kenya Dialogues Project hosted a panel discussion on Sunday 31st August 2014 on the theme “Land and National Cohesion: How can we transform land into a uniting factor in Kenya today?”

The discussion preceded by a theatrical performance of BBC Award winning play ‘Beach Access’ which dramatizes the struggles of ‘beach boys’ to regain access to their beach after the path is blocked by illegal developers. The play examines the impact of big events and big people’s decisions on small people, with a demonstrated understanding of the hopes and fears of ordinary wo/men.In the context of Kenya’s continuous search for meaningful paths to healing, reconciliation and national cohesion,the issues raised by “Beach Access” are relevant today more than ever.The playwright KuldipSondhi will grace the occasion.

Structured around a Moderator and discussants, this SID Mjadala Series brought together the citizen community to collectively reflect on critical questions of our time on land and social justice including:

1.     What more can the state do to address historical injustices relating to land and dispossession?

2.     What is the role of communities in preventing and addressing land-related injustices?

3.     Is the policy of "willing buyer-willing seller" sufficient to address land (re)distribution?

4.     What lessons for Kenya from other countries in addressing similar land issues?