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Law School Team Publishes Article on Berkeley Journal

(L-R) Ianchris Muchangi, Melissa Mungai and Smith Ouma

Strathmore Law School Lecturer Smith Ouma, together with 4th year students Melissa Mungai and Ianchris Muchangi, recently published an article in the Berkeley Journal of African-American Law and Policy.

Through a 2-year process, the team developed content that tackled environmental injustices in the Northern and Coastal frontiers in Kenya.

What was the title of your journal?

The topic we worked on informed the choice of our title: Recurrent Chronicles of Environmental Injustice in the Northern Frontier Districts (NFDs) and the Kenyan Coast. Our topic was based on the LAPSSET (Lamu Port-South Sudan-Ethiopia-Transport projects) Governmental project, set to build new transport corridors covering rail, road and an oil pipeline from Lamu, connecting Kenya with Ethiopia and South Sudan.

At the start of our research, the project was fairly new and we wished to analyse if the area residents in the parts affected by this project have their rights taken care of, especially on matters concerning land. The marginalised areas are in Lamu, Tana River, Turkana and Marsabit counties.

What did you discover?

Our analysis revealed that a large group of the inhabitants in these areas did not know about the projects and therefore were not privy to the developments taking place, and how their land titles and portions would be affected. The post-independent government, largely excluded these areas from development, and the current government is now pushing to develop infrastructure there without protecting the rights of the inhabitants who predominantly hold land communally.

We observed large-scale agricultural projects taking place in Tana River county, a largely pastoralist county.  The pastoralist communities are in a risky position because their land rights are threatened by these infrastructural and agricultural projects. We investigated if there are safe-guards put in place to ensure that the rights of people in these communities are protected from these investments, which are usually initiated by foreign countries and are for their own benefit.

We discovered that a majority of individuals within the communities were not aware of what the government was doing or, even if they were, did not know their rights regarding getting compensations where necessary or the impact of the projects on their communities. This is mainly attributed to their lack of formal land title.

What kind of research did you conduct to assess the matters?

Our research was based on material written on the topics; we analysed reports by community-based organisations and publications by authors. Our capacity was limited to the areas researched on.

What solutions did you suggest?

Because of the kind of injustices faced by communities in these areas who have lands but do not have the capacity to safe-guard their interests, despite the transformative legal regime that has been adopted in the country, we suggested sensitizing the communities on their rights to land based on the enactment of the Community Land Act and the constitutional provisions on community land and devolution. The community members should be aware that they are entitled to be consulted on matters concerning their lands and if land is being accrued they are adequately compensated.

How did the students join in on the research?

While working as a Graduate Assistant, I noticed that the duo – Melissa and Ianchris – were interested in the topic during class time and, therefore, I approached them to tackle the topic with me.

How long did the writing take before publishing?

We started writing in 2015, when the duo was in 2nd year. We had a back-and-forth editorial process with Berkeley since then before we managed to publish.

What does this publication mean for the Law School?

Our publishing shows that the school has the capacity to conduct all kinds of research and publish in well-known journals. We have a conducive environment in the School that allows students and faculty to work together to produce relevant research. This kind of work also serves as mentorship for students who wish to get into research and policy-making.


To access the article click here.