Kenya: Protests Against World Bank-Driven Land Reforms
NAIROBI -- Kenyan human rights activists are adding
voices to those already opposed to the World Bank driven land
they say, seek to make land "just another commodity" to be
subjected to the
whims of market forces, at the expense of millions of landless
"What we are discovering is that the World Bank is sponsoring
reforms but they are actually releasing land to the market place,
even more inaccessible for poor landless people," says Lumumba
co-ordinator of Kenya Land Alliance.
The Kenya Land Alliance, a network of non-governmental
individuals advocating fair land distribution and policy reforms,
that result of the ongoing reforms in many developing countries
disastrous, with potential of increased number of destitute
marginal areas in cities.
"We can't reduce poverty if the majority of the landless can't
land," he adds.
Odenda argues that such an arrangement is impossible with the
labour market in developing countries, and could only work if the
already have industries large enough to absorb landless people.
"If we don't even have jobs people have to subsist on land,
World Bank is now taking away from them. Even those employed are
being retrenched," he says.
Agriculture is the primary occupation, and source of
subsistence for up
to 75 percent of Kenyans. Land has, therefore, become the most
commodity, exposing it to speculation, which has pushed the price
beyond ordinary people.
Furthermore the country still relies on land laws and policies
established under the British colonial government, which in many
prevented the most disadvantaged groups from getting the land they
There also is increasing concern in Kenya over lack of clear
policies that fit rural urban migrants into real estate, most of
perched up in crowded shanty dwellings on government land.
The government of President Daniel arap Moi however, seems
release the land to slum dwellers, a problem manifested in
clashes between them and private developers, officially allocated
Only last week, scores were injured in violent clashes in the
between Muslim youths and hawkers at the "Fuata Nyayo" slums. A
churches, an entertainment park and a mosque were also burnt in
The clashes started when Muslim leaders in the local mosque,
acquired title to the disputed land for expansion, ordered the
move or risk being evicted.
Land problem in Kenya has also, since 1992, taken an ugly
ethnic turn, in
which at least 2, 000 people have been killed and thousands
Sometime last year, the International Peasant Movement La Via
and the Human Rights Organisation FIAN International initiated a
campaign for agrarian reform, to implement the human rights
the agrarian reform
The campaign was initiated in recognition of the human right to
recognised under article 11 of the International Covenant on
Social and Cultural Rights, which stipulates that landless
agricultural workers must gain access to those resources, mainly
which they can produce food.
Under this article, land reform is spelled out as one of the
important means of realising the right to food.
The World Bank has since the mid 1990s preached its "market-
reform", a programme it aimed at addressing poor people's lack of
assets, particularly land by providing efficiency and equity in
redistribution of these assets in developing countries.
Human rights groups are, however, concerned that the programme
guarantee the realisation of a comprehensive reform that would
right of poor peasant farmers to have access to land in unfair
distribution practices, especially in oligopolistic market
controlled by cartels.
They cite examples ranging from Guatemala to Philippines in
programmes are disappearing due to lack of resources. In countries
South Africa, the redistribution programme has partially turned
programme for bailing out "highly indebted white farmers" off
"By implementing this model, the bank is failing to realise its
Operational Directive on Poverty Reduction as well. This has been
illustrated by the results of such programmes so far. There is no
that the reforms of land markets have, fundamentally, altered the
land ownership," information sourced from Land alliance literature
"Firstly, the programmes aimed at helping people to buy land
primarily designed for those farmers who already have some
capacity and seem to be able to run an economically feasible
reads, "Less qualified families, despite being needier, are
"Secondly, the small-holder beneficiaries are not able to
income to repay their land purchase loans if the do not get
- 116 Human Rights
- 194 World Financial Institutions