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Kenyan Women Step Up Fight for Land Destined for Coal Mine as 30,000 households likely to be affected

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Kenyan women harvest maize in Kenya, Oct. 9, 2008. VOA

Africa, Jan 20, 2017: When the Kenyan government announced five years ago that coal deposits had been found in the Mui Basin, a land of rolling hills and pristine forests east of Nairobi, local farmers hoped the discovery would help transform their livelihoods.

But as villagers prepare to leave their loamy, fertile soils to make way for the multimillion-dollar mine and power station development, many households fear they will miss out on compensation because women do not have titles to their land.

Traditionally, Kenyan society is patriarchal and ownership and decisions on land management or disposal are made by men.

The villagers’ situation reflects the predicament of thousands of women throughout Kenya who head their households but are not named on land ownership documents.

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Around 30,000 households will be affected by the proposed coal mines in the Mui Basin, said Alex Nganga, leader in the local county assembly.

There are no definitive figures for how many local families are headed by women, but it is known that there are many.

“We were anticipating that women would be listed in title deeds as co-owners or joint owners of land,” said Kasyoka Malonza, a Mutito community representative in the Mui Basin.

“It’s unfortunate that we have not been recognized despite all our efforts,” she said.

A national problem

According to the Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA), Kenya now has a raft of progressive laws aimed at ensuring gender equality but customary laws continue to limit women’s rights to land and property.

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The Land Registration Act, introduced in 2012, includes provisions for joint tenancy and gives wives a legal right to land that is held in the other spouse’s name where the woman has contributed either in financial terms or through her labor.

FIDA estimates that only five percent of all land title deeds are held jointly by women with men, and only one percent of land titles in Kenya are held by women alone.

This is despite figures that show that around 32 percent of households are headed by women and that they are responsible for nearly 90 percent of the farming work.

A report on gender issues and the effect of coal mining in the Mui Basin prepared last year with Canadian government support also highlighted the need to ensure fair compensation for land for women who live in polygamous households.

More power for Kenya

The coal-rich Mui Basin covers around 500 square km and is located around 270 km (170 miles) east of Nairobi. It has been divided into four sections for mining development.

A Chinese firm, Fenxi Mining Group, was given rights to develop half the area in 2011. Another Chinese company, HCIG Energy Investment Company, with Liketh Investments Kenya Ltd won rights to develop the rest of the area and build a coal-fired plant in 2015.

The east African nation hopes that coal from the $2 billion power plant will not only help supply Kenya’s cement and steel industries, which import large volumes of coal, but also save on foreign exchange by cutting import costs. Surplus electricity will be sold into Kenya’s national grid.

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George Kariithi, director of the Great Lakes Corporation, a Kenyan partner of the Fenxi Mining Group, said the company could not comment on the issue of land compensation and ownership rights.

“We have left that for the government to handle,” he told Reuters.

A spokesman for the National Land Commission told Reuters that questions on land titles and the mining development must be referred to the Kitui County government.

But an official for the county said he could not comment, as it was a matter for the Land Commission.

Women fight back

Christine Kalikanda of the advocacy group Center for Human Rights and Civic Education (CHRCE) said the group was working in the Mui Basin as well as many other areas of Kenya to teach women how to ask for their property rights.

“We mobilize communities to voice issues collectively,” she said, adding that CHRCE has also developed guidelines to help villagers negotiate fair, market value compensation.

According to local residents, however, there has been very little interaction between the mining companies and local communities.

Activists say that the government itself has not been forthcoming either and communities still have no idea where churches, markets and water points are to be relocated.

Simon Mutui of the campaign group Kenya NGO Council said widows and single parents are particularly worried, as they have no legal claim to their land at all.

“Children born out of wedlock stay with their maternal extended families but have no claim to land, as their mothers lack inheritance rights, they have no claim to compensation,” he said.

For Mutito community representative Malonza, the answer lies with the Kenyan government.

“It should guarantee women’s rights both for ownership and the equitable division of assets,” she said. “We want to see that even women in polygamous families get an equal share.”-(VOA)

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DP Ruto Says He’s Ready to Face Raila in 2022

Ruto was speaking in reference to media reports suggesting that the opposition leader would contest for presidency in the coming General Election

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Deputy President William Ruto and former Prime Minister Raila Odinga.

By Geoffrey Isaya

Kenya’s Deputy President William Ruto says he is ready to go head-to-head with former Prime Minister Raila Odinga in the 2022 race to succeed President Uhuru Kenyatta.

Speaking on Sunday in Meru County, DP Ruto, however, challenged Odinga to come out clean that he would accept defeat in the next election.

Ruto was speaking in reference to media reports suggesting that the opposition leader would contest for presidency in the coming General Election. Odinga has rubbished the newspaper reports but has neither denied nor confirmed that he will be on the ballot come 2022.

“I have heard that he has announced that he wants to compete with me in 2022. I do not have a problem competing with him, but he must first tell and assure Kenyans that in case of a defeat, he will accept the decision of the Kenyan voters,” said the Deputy President.

“Let him first tell the country that in case of defeat, he will not cause chaos.”

Ruto, however, said he is currently ‘busy’ focusing on fulfillment of the Jubilee government’s development agenda.

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Deputy president William Ruto sits next to Meru senator Minthika Linturi during a church service at the Full gospel Church in Buuri,Meru county.

“But for the time being, I want to tell him that I am busy ensuring that the Jubilee manifesto and the Big Four agenda are realised,” said the DP.

Earlier on Sunday, Mr. Odinga said he was “deeply disappointed” by the media reports placing him in the 2022 presidential race.

In a statement issued by his spokesperson Dennis Onyango, Odinga said his calls for his party ODM to prepare for grassroots elections were “deliberately twisted” to mean he is in the presidential race.

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Deputy president William Ruto addresses residents of Meru County on Sunday.

“Raila Odinga strongly objects to reports appearing in the Sunday Nation today that put him in a presidential race he has not declared any interest in and which does not exist currently,” read part of the statement.

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“Mr Odinga entered no race yesterday and he knows no race that is on as reported in Sunday Nation.  It’s way too early.”

The former premier who is also the African Union High Representative for Infrastructure said focusing on the 2022 elections would undermine efforts towards addressing issues facing the country such as “violent elections every five years, runaway corruption, troubles in the counties, reforms to education and endangered national values.”