The beginning of the settlement schemes in Kenya goes back to the First World War when the military came to the East African Protectorate to join the fight, some from South Africa, Britain and Rhodes Island. They were joined by more fighters – Legion of the Frontiersmen.
The fighters who survived after the surrender of the Germans opted to settle in Kenya. The War Council in Nairobi established the Soldier Settlement Scheme that saw many Brits coming to Kenya to join the survivors and later on own large parcels of land, taking away any piece of land that the Kenyans used for farming.
The government then allocated large parcels of land to the white settlers that amounted to them occupying 240,000 SQ miles against 48,348 SQ miles owned by Kenyans.
The bitterness among the Kenyans deprived of their land intensified which led to the Land Commission appointment in Kenya in the year 1933. The commission was to look into the boundaries surrounding the white settlers land and ultimately note that some Kenyans had indeed lost a lot of lands and ended up being squatters in their own ancestral land.
The government policies and regulations then stipulated that the squatters were to be designated as laborers and not tenants. These land tensions and the labor policies triggered animosity towards the settlers and the government then reacted by expelling squatters in Central Kenya from any European farms.
The increase in squatters’ numbers led to the creation of a squatter movement that ended up being more of a militant movement against the government.
By October 1955, the frontier government had forced out more than one million Kenyans from their villages and confiscated land from freedom fighters and went ahead to demolish their houses. It is at this time when the government started consolidating land that gave the Kenyan – government loyalists an opportunity to allocate themselves the parcels of land that were confiscated from the freedom fighters.
In a bid to avoid panic among the white farmers, Mzee Jomo Kenyatta adopted the policy of ‘Forgive and Forget’ during the transition of land to the Kenyans from the white settler after we gained independence. With support from Britain, Kenyatta’s government acquired land by purchasing acres of land through a loan from Britain that was to be repaid in 30 years.
This land was used to settle many Kenyan families but by the time the funds had dried up, the government still had not bought out over four million acres of land that was used as ranches and plantations. In the 1970’s, the government took over large farms that had been abandoned and settled more Kenyans there. And as they say, the rest is history.
Up to date, we still have landless Kenyans but coming from a place where our ancestors were laborers in their own land, we can agree that we have come a long way. In the modern day, an individual can buy a piece of land legally and settle on it whether as a family home or for farming. We still have a long way to go, but the steps that were taken to get us here have to be noted and appreciated.