Land should have been collectivized – Raila says

Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga says that former white highlands should have been collectivized after independence to avert present day ethnic clashes.

“What should have happened was that you should have isolated particular areas for residential purposes, and then left the farm itself as a large estate,” explained Raila. The Prime Minister was speaking at a forum organized by the Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) during his current trip to the United States.

Raila and his ODM party have been criticized for seeking to drive out Kikuyu settlers from the Rift Valley province. During ethnic and political clashes following disputed elections in December 2007, hundreds of Kikuyu were killed by ODM supporters in the Rift Valley. Hundreds of thousands others were driven out of their homes in the Rift Valley, Western, Nyanza and Coast provinces for supporting President Mwai Kibaki.

The Kalenjin ethnic group, who supported Raila’s bid for the presidency claim the Rift Valley as their ethnic homeland. The Kalenjin accuse the Kikuyu of taking over land and dominating commerce in the province. The Kikuyu say they bought the land from departing white settlers after independence. Others bought or leased land from the Kalenjin themselves.

During the panel discussion, David Throup of the CSIS and George Washington University presented evidence showing that there were immigrant settlers in the Rift Valley from as far as the 1920s. “How are you going to reconcile the fact that
many of these Kikuyu have actually lived in the Rift Valley for about truly a century, that by 1920, one in four Kikuyu lived outside of Central Province in the Rift Valley?”

Raila acknowledged the statement but criticized the manner in which former white settler farms were subdivided after independence.  “The way in which these settlements were done is itself the cause of the problem that we are having. You took fairly productive agricultural land and parceled it out into small, small units – three acres, five acres. And when this generation then gets children, your five acres again is now subdivided into one acre, and then eventually to half an acre and so on and so forth. So we have clearly just a rural slum in that area.”

“What should have happened was that you should have isolated particular areas for residential purposes, and then left the farm itself as a large estate – what happened in Europe during the industrial revolution period. But the farm is farmed collectively. That way you can be able to provide proper services. You can provide water. You can do sanitation. And you can bring electricity and so on.”

However, its worth noting that none of Kenya’s regions have ever adopted collective commercial farming. Land in Kenya is owned through individual titles that are transferable through sale or inheritance.

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