Land Reform in Kenya: The History of an Idea




Land reform, Land law, Colonial history, Post-colonial history


The great legal scholar Patrick McAuslan described the 1990s as inaugurating a new era of land law reform. Land law reform has taken place on a significant scale since 1990: a total of 32 new national land laws have been enacted since 1990 in nearly 60 per cent of African states. Land issues have been the cause of both simmering discontent and violent conflict throughout Kenya’s colonial and post-colonial history. They remain a ‘key fault line’ in modern Kenya. Historians of Kenya and commentators on its politics continue to find patrimonialism, ethnic favouritism and corruption at play, nowhere more so than in the politics of land. Kenya’s problems with land defy easy description: they remain complex and multi-faceted and include massive and worsening inequalities in access to land, a propensity to land grabbing and continuing conflicts over who is and who is not entitled to occupy land. Efforts to address these problems have since before independence been erratic at best.


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Author Biography

Ambreena Manji, Cardiff University (Wales, United Kingdom)

Professor of Land Law and Development, Cardiff University (United Kingdom). An earlier version of this paper was delivered as the 6th CB Madan Memorial Lecture, Strathmore Law School, 7th December 2018. My thanks to the CB Madan award committee for the invitation to speak and to Gitobu Imanyara, Willy Mutunga, Smith Ouma and John Osogo Ambani for their encouragement. The ideas contained here are elaborated upon in my book, The struggle for land and justice in Kenya, James Currey/Brewer and Boydell, 2020.




How to Cite

Manji, A. (2021). Land Reform in Kenya: The History of an Idea. Strathmore Law Journal, 5(1), 267–278.



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