Land is not only the most important factor of production but also a very emotive issue in Kenya, and Africa as a whole. It doesn’t help that for decades since Kenya’s independence, there have been multiple set of laws regulating land registration and ownership.
From the Indian Transfer of Property Act, 1882, the Government Lands Act (Cap. 280), the Registration of Titles Act (Cap. 281), the Land Titles Act (Cap. 282) to the Registered Land Act (Cap. 300), each of these laws created their own registers which made land registration both complex and susceptible to fraud.
Mr. David Nyandoro, Acting Chief Land Registrar at the Ministry of Lands and Physical Planning opines that as a result, there has been an urgent need, for a long time, to bring sanity in the land sector. Mandated by Article 68 of the 2010 Kenyan Constitution to revise, consolidate and rationalize existing land laws, parliament repealed old land regimes and enacted the Land Registration Act, 2012.
Mr. Nyandoro, accompanied by a team from the Ministry, was speaking Wednesday, July 28, 2021 to Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT) staff and community members on the Land Title Conversion under the Land Registration Act (No. 6 of 2012) and the Land Registration (Registration Units) Order, 2017.
The event, jointly organized by the Ministry of Lands and JKUAT’s Department of Geomatic Engineering and Geospatial Information Systems (GEGIS), sought to demystify and break down the title conversion process to the University community and explore areas of convergence and collaboration between the two institutions.
On December 31, 2020, the conversion of various land titles was announced via a special issue of Kenya Gazette notice number 11348, setting the stage for the migration of all land titles under the ambit of the Land Registration Act as per Article 68 of the Constitution of Kenya, 2010. The process of conversion is being carried out in phases, with a pilot programme currently underway in Nairobi.
Central to the process is the recently launched National Land Information Management System (NLIMS). The online system dubbed ‘ardhisasa’ (https://ardhisasa.lands.go.ke/), is a centralized platform, that enables citizens to interact with land information held and processes undertaken by Government. It allows the lodgment of applications for various services offered by the Ministry of Lands and the National Land Commission. So how exactly does the conversion process cascade?
Nyandoro explains that at the onset, it is important for citizens to understand what conversion means, which is the process of migrating title deeds to a unitary regime as envisaged under the Land Registration Act. This implies that all titles issued under the old laws will have to be cancelled and replaced with titles under the new legal regime.
“Currently, a whooping 79% of the land within the territory of Kenya is community land, and is not legally registered. This needs to change to forestall any unnecessary conflicts,” he implored.
The first step in the process is the preparation of Cadastral maps (maps that show the boundaries and ownership of land within specified area), and the conversion list indicating new and old numbers for parcels of land within a registration unit or registration section/block and their corresponding acreages.
This is then followed by a gazettement of the conversion list by the Cabinet Secretary within 30 days of receipt. The registrar then issues a Notice to the Public to apply for replacement titles. Owners will then make applications for replacement/new titles. And finally, the registry will then replace old titles with the new titles. The process also gives the right for any person aggrieved by the conversion process to file a complaint within 90 days from the date of the gazette notice.
The system provides for conversion for titles in respect of sectional properties, conversion if the deed files are missing, conversion if the original titles are lost, and conversion for titles for parcels of land undergoing succession. Others are conversion of titles held under Trust or Community Land, Conversion of existing long term leases where the reversionary interest vests in the lessees, conversion of titles held in court as security, and conversion of titles held as security by financial institutions, banks, or other creditors.
Mr. Bernard Leitich, Deputy Chief Land Registrar who was also in attendance at the sensitization event, emphasizes that the unitary system of registration guarantees a permanent end to duplicate titles and land ownership contentions. This, he enunciates, is the reason behind making georeferencing mandatory in the registration process.
“This process is gradual and phased to ensure people fully comprehend the process and get acclimatized within the framework of the Act. The Ministry has also dedicated a 24-hour customer care service to ensure real-time resolution to any inquiries,” he explained.
Vice Chancellor Prof. Victoria Ngumi, in a speech read on her behalf at the function, thanked the team from the Ministry for making the effort to bring the University community up to speed on the land title conversion, and assured them of University support in the efforts to harmonize land matters in the country.
“As you have seen, our Department of Geomatic Engineering and Geospatial Information Systems has been at the forefront of making this function a possibility. This is the Department that teaches and produces research and innovations in thematic areas such as Digital mapping, Geospatial Information Systems (GIS), Remote Sensing, Global Navigation Satellite Systems, Surveying, Cartography, Remote sensing, Geodetic Sciences, among others. We are therefore ready and willing to be your collaborators and partners in this journey,” she elucidated.
On her part, GEGIS Chair, Dr. Mercy Mwaniki, called on staff members and students alike to routinely interact with the provisions enshrined in the Land Registration Act, 2012, and subsequently act as sources of knowledge and ambassadors of the Ministry, to ensure public sensitization is enhanced.
“Land remains a sensitive subject that affects all levels of development. It can’t be emphasized enough the need for as many people as possible to properly understand this process as the Ministry implements the Act. I believe the University being a fountain of knowledge, it is incumbent upon all of us, regardless of discipline, to understand this process and enlighten others,” she concluded.