Team threatens to impeach Charity Ngilu and Mohamed Swazuri

Kenya:Lands Cabinet Secretary Charity Ngilu and National Land Commission (NLC) chairman Muhammad Swazuri could soon be forced to fight to keep their jobs.

Parliament and Commission for the Implementation of the Constitution (CIC) have signalled a process to have them removed from office could begin because of their persistent wrangles that are a threat to land reforms.

 A truce brokered by President Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto in November last year was shortlived as the two have resumed their bitter feuding.

A constitutional commission and parliamentary committee closed ranks to press for the removal from Lands Cabinet Secretary Charity Ngilu and National Land Commission (NLC) Chairman Muhammad Swazuri over their unrelenting turf wars and public spats.

The National Assembly Lands Committee yesterday threatened to kick-start the process to remove the two from office, after prompting by the Commission for the Implementation of the Constitution (CIC) on grounds their incessant wrangles have undermined land reforms.

CIC Chairman Charles Nyachae challenged Parliament to crack the whip to stop persistent wrangles by the two institutions, which he said had affected land reforms.

“One of the principal reforms in the Constitution is the issue of land reforms. These reforms are dear to the hearts of many Kenyans. For the last two years, we have been treated to wrangles and sideshows from the principal institutions expected to spearhead reforms,” Mr Nyachae said.

“It is high time Parliament takes its oversight role seriously and makes sure that whoever is responsible is removed because there are many Kenyans who can do the job,” Nyachae added.

The House Lands Committee Chairman Alex Mwiru concurred that persistent wrangles were affecting land reforms and creating loopholes for unscrupulous private developers to grab public land.

Mwiru, who is also Tharaka MP, argued Parliament would not allow the turf wars between the two leaders to undermine a sector that is critical to the economy.

“Land controls over Sh1.4 trillion of our economy and if this resource is not taken care of, we will lose a lot to unscrupulous traders that appear to be keen to take advantage of the wrangles,” said Mr Mwiru.

The committee members and CIC commissioners are holding a three-day workshop at Flamingo Hotel in Mombasa to deliberate on proposals to amend the three land statutes and the Evictions and Resettlement Bill.

The squabbles between Mrs Ngilu and Dr Swazuri have intensified despite the intervention of President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto.

Last November, Uhuru and Ruto witnessed as Ngilu and Swazuri signed an agreement at State House in Nairobi, which was hoped would ensure the Ministry of Lands and the commission would work harmoniously.

 But the truce was short-lived as the differences between the two institutions resurfaced this week in submissions filed before the Supreme Court, which is arbitrating on the turf wars.

The Supreme Court had last year given the two institutions three months to dialogue, failure to which a petition by NLC seeking an advisory opinion on the commission’s mandate as an independent body would be readmitted. The period expired on January 28 and the two parties couldn’t agree.

Instead, the two State organs accused each other of scuttling dialogue.

Through its lawyer Tom Ojienda, NLC accused Ngilu of refusing to sign a document prepared by a joint committee setting out their mandates in land matters.

“The commission has made every effort to comply with orders of this court and it’s the Cabinet Secretary who has refused to sign the document. Disowning the document at this point and saying you had no initiative at the negotiations is shocking. It’s just a political statement,” Prof Ojienda charged.

However, Ngilu’s lawyer Paul Muite blamed the commission for the deadlock, adding that the document in question had been prepared without the input of the ministry.

“The position of the ministry is that the parties must continue seeking consensus as directed by the court. It’s the commission that has brought dialogue to an end and not the ministry,” Mr Muite argued.

However, Ojienda told the judges dialogue had failed and the court should proceed to give a determination.

In the suit, the commission raised more than 100 questions, arguing that Ngilu had on several occasions published land registration regulations without consulting NLC in contravention of the Constitution.

A Technical Implementation Committee was formed and sat in Naivasha where it deliberated and drafted the working document which was produced in court on Tuesday but disowned by Ngilu.

Yesterday, CIC and the Lands Committee explained that the fate of Ngilu and Swazuri will now be decided by Parliament.

 The constitution provides for the removal of a cabinet secretary and commissioners of independent commissions on grounds of gross misconduct, including violation of the Constitution.

Mwiru said there were internal squabbles even within NLC itself given that some commissioners have also called on Swazuri to step aside.

Nyachae advised that Parliament should, in exercising its oversight role, remove from office officials responsible for the squabbles arguing there ought to be consequences, which include removing Ngilu and Swazuri given they are unable to work together.

Proposals have been made by the Office of the President, NLC and MPs for the amendment of the three land laws – the Land Act, Land Registration Act and National Land Commission Act – and to harmonise them as a solution to the persistent wrangles between the two institutions.

But Nyachae and Mwiru said that even if the laws were harmonised, it was clear that Ngilu and Swazuri were not ready to work together.

Step aside

He said that the two – Ngilu and Swazuri – cannot cling to power and that “the truth is the consequences of their actions demand that they should step aside.”

Speaking at the workshop for the parliamentary committee and officials from the commission, he pointed out that past efforts to resolve the standoff between Ngilu and Swazuri had failed.

He said the only way forward was for Parliament to demonstrate its oversight mandate by removing the two.