Public Regulation of the Use of Private Land : Opportunities and Challenges in Kenya

Nixon Sifuna
Moi University School of Law
PO Box 1948 - 30100
Eldoret , Kenya


In Kenya land is not only one of the most valuable belongings of any person, but a natural heritage that sustains all life forms and one that has to pass on from generation to generation by inheritance. Besides, land is a rather sensitive and emotive issue, for instance, having been central issue in the struggle for independence from colonialism. It is imperative therefore that land be used efficiently and responsibly to ensure it is available to posterity and in a form equitable and beneficial to the present as well as the future generations. Despite its importance, however, land in Kenya is a scarce resource that has to be available to competing uses and needs. It is also a resource whose use may result in environmental harm and degradation, jeopardise the interests of future generations in such land or negatively impact on its various uses. To ensure its efficient use and appropriate distribution of its benefits in the country, there is need for regulation of the use of any land irrespective of its regime of tenure in the public interest-whether is under state ownership, community (communal) ownership or private ownership. The power to regulate the use of private land is generally vested in state and is usually exercised by public institutions and officers on behalf of the state and for the citizenry. Indeed a legitimate government especially that which has been popularly and democratically elected by the people is a custodian of the public interest and welfare of the citizens, with the mandate to act on their behalf. Apart from state and governmental entities, this regulation is also exercised by local management institutions, most of which are informal. Despite its beneficial value in terms of promoting the public good, the exercise of the power of public regulation of private land in Kenya faces numerous challenges. Indeed this power if properly employed can not only enforce and promote the public good but ensure sustainable land use practices as well. In order that it may effectively play this noble role there is need to attenuate challenges while at the same time maintaining appropriate and effective safeguards to guard against its abuse or misuse to avoid mischief.


Kenya, land use control, local management institutions, police power, private land, public intervention, public trust doctrine, state regulation.             LEAD Journal - ISSN 1746-5893