The creation of the Ministry of State for the Development of Northern Kenya and other Arid Lands was an important milestone in addressing the problems in the region. This ministry is a focal point for the Government’s efforts in addressing the historical injustices, marginalisation and underdevelopment that loudly define the region. It was created by an Executive fiat. Many have argued it is ineffective, inefficient, merely symbolic and cosmetic. This begs for a legal framework upon which the ministry can be built. The law must set out the powers of the minister, the functions of the ministry and the procedures for the implementation of its functions.
Such a law will also establish the necessary institutions that will be instant vehicles for the implementation of the policies and programmes of the ministry. The Arid Land and Resource Management Project can be converted into such an institution under this ministry. The law will set clear guidelines on the exclusive roles of the ministry to avoid overlap of their roles with other ministries.
There are some vestiges of the repealed emergency laws, which are retrogressive.
The Stock Theft and Produce Act provides for the collective punishment of the pastoralist communities of Northern Kenya.
The Indemnity Act, which was meant to immunise the security forces against any claims for their conduct, is now spent. The security forces still operate under the emergency laws era mentality. There are so many unnecessary barriers mounted by the Police and the AP in the name of security but which have become fertile sites for harassing motorists, corruption and the hindrance of the free movement of people and goods in the region and people at large. The conspicuous absence of land registries in the region has hindered an economic progress.
Under the Registered Land Act, Cap 300, there are established land registries in every district to empower the District Lands Registrar to issue title deeds. Once the land has been allocated, surveyed and letter of allotment issued, every allottee is required to meet the conditions on the letter of allotment to be able to get a title deed. The Registry Index Map for Northern Kenya, which captures the properties that have been surveyed and registered, is held in Nairobi.
Under the Judicature Act, Cap 8, the Chief Justice is empowered to create high courts and magistrate courts in any part of the country. For the people of Northern Kenya, access to justice is a nightmare. There is no high court in the whole region. Appeals from the magistrate’s courts must be filed in the High Court either in Nairobi, Embu, Nyeri or Meru. This is quite prohibitive and discouraging and most dissatisfied people choose not to appeal.
Despite livestock being the economic mainstay of the region, there is a sheer absence of legal framework for the marketing and sale of livestock and livestock products. This is a major obstacle to the development. There is need to establish institutions to support this sector — such as marketing boards, abattoirs, cold storage, slaughter houses and airports of international standards for the export of these products. The Kenya Meat Commission should have been located in the region or at the very least have an effective branch there.
The most embarrassing aspect is that the tourism potential of the region has never been harnessed. Policymakers in the tourism industry have neglected it. The Kenya Tourism Development Corporation, the Kenya Tourism Board and the Tourism Trust Fund are the premier institutions to promote tourism in Kenya. Why they have neglected such a valuable project that might help the local inhabitants and Kenyans generally is beyond comprehension. Instead of taking the camel to the tourists at the Coast, there should be more efforts put to take such tourists to the camel in its natural habitat and to explore other potential tourist attractions in the region.
Political goodwill from the Executive and an accommodating Parliament will address the concerns of the residents of North-Eastern Province and Kenyans.
The writer is an advocate of the High Court of Kenya. The Kenyan Parliament has proposed him to be the Chairman of the country's Election board. This is an abridged version of a paper presented at a meeting of MPs in Naivasha last year.