Land Corruption: A Focus on Succession and Inheritance
By Mary Maneno
Many families all over the world experience land corruption at a time they are most vulnerable – during the loss of their loved ones. The Kenyan experience is not any different.
Grievances about succession and inheritance are the most prevalent among many Kenyan families. This is according to a national survey by the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS). The survey reveals that complaints on the two issues account for 26.2% of all concerns by respondents polled followed by land at 16.3%.
Whenever someone dies, there are many issues that call for the immediate attention of close family members. Often, a few responsible relatives take immediate action to ensure that the property left by the deceased is protected. Unfortunately, such actions do not carry the day.
It is common to see opportunistic relatives line up to take everything from a widow after her husband’s death. Some take advantage of the situation to grab everything they can lay their hands on as soon as possible by either emptying the bank account of the deceased or selling their land.
In some communities, land belonging to widows is sold without their consent or even knowledge. All too often, they even doubt her ability to take proper care of herself and the children. Failure to know their rights leaves such widows vulnerable and helpless. Even those who know that their rights have been violated cannot afford the legal fees to get protection.
Women Most Vulnerable
Roselyne Abongo, whose husband died in 2009 resorted to renting land after she lost all the land they owned. The single reason being that she refused to marry her late husband’s brother. She was left grieving, with no money to seek legal support. To complicate matters further, her husband had not written a will.
Another case is that of Juma Kandie whose younger brother fraudulently sold the family land left by their father to a third party without consent leaving the family in a difficult situation. These two cases show manifestation of corruption in the land sector.
For citizens, limited access to information, complex laws and procedures regulating land ownership, and insufficient access to justice are some of the driving forces behind land corruption in Africa. This is a key issue for Transparency International and its national chapters around the world.
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Disclaimer: The names used in this article are fictitious)