The Threatened Heritage: Land Laws Amendment Bill 2024 and Its Implications for Kenya

In a small village, nestled among rolling hills and fertile plains, a farmer tended to his ancestral land. This land, passed down through generations, symbolized more than just a source of livelihood. It embodied heritage, identity, and a sense of belonging. But a shadow loomed over this serene existence with the introduction of the Land Laws Amendment Bill 2024.

The bill proposed a seismic shift in land ownership. By introducing an annual levy on freehold land, it threatened to convert these lands into leasehold properties, demanding regular payments from owners. This notion struck fear into the hearts of many, particularly small-scale farmers who had inherited their land from their forefathers. "The introduction of land rent to freehold land will burden already struggling Kenyans," said Martin Githinji, CEO designate of AMG Realtors. "Many of these landowners are not economically endowed and might face homelessness if they cannot afford the rents. This law is retrogressive and threatens the gains made in land ownership through the 2010 Constitution and the new land laws of 2012".

The Controversial Bill

Proposed Changes

The Land Laws Amendment Bill 2024 aimed to amend the Land Registration Act of 2012 and the Land Act of 2012 to change the land ownership laws in Kenya. The most contentious proposal was the annual levy on freehold land, a stark departure from the traditional concept of owning land outright. This change was seen as a move to convert freehold ownership into leasehold, effectively altering the very nature of land tenure in Kenya.

Legislative Progress and Withdrawal

Despite the uproar, the bill had navigated through the parliamentary process and was pending in the Senate. On June 28, 2024, however, the Leader of the Majority Party, Hon. Kimani Ichung'wah, announced its withdrawal. This brought immediate relief to many landowners, preserving the traditional benefits of freehold landownership and maintaining their stability and security.

The Voices of Protest


The Gen Z Movement

The proposed land levy catalyzed widespread protests in Kenya and in the diaspora, particularly among the Gen Z population. Young people took to the streets, driven by the fear that the land their families had owned for generations was under threat. This sentiment resonated deeply with parents and community leaders, who saw the levy as unjust and burdensome. These protests were not isolated incidents but part of a broader rejection of policies perceived as unfair, including the contentious Finance Bill 2024, which proposed various new taxes.

Expert Opinions

Dr. Mwenda Makathimo, Executive Director of the Land Development and Governance Institute (LDGI), voiced strong concerns about the bill's implications. "Imposing this annual levy on freehold property essentially converts freehold property into leasehold property and risks dispossessing many Kenyans," he explained. Eva Makori of the International Land Coalition (ILC) Africa echoed these sentiments, highlighting the threat to indigenous peoples with ancestral lands.

The Role of the Lands Cabinet Secretary

The bill, sponsored by Ruiru MP Simon King’ara, also proposed giving the Lands Cabinet Secretary the power to acquire land compulsorily. This raised alarms about potential abuses of power and arbitrary denial of property rights. "This brings in more risks; risks that can lead to arbitrary denial of property rights as provided under article 40," warned Dr. Makathimo.

Looking Ahead: The Future of Land Investment

Current Market Conditions

With the bill withdrawn, the immediate threat to freehold landowners has been removed, creating a more stable environment for land investment. Kenya's urbanization and infrastructure projects continue to present numerous opportunities for investors in residential, commercial, and industrial real estate.

Ongoing Vigilance

Despite the relief, the legislative landscape in Kenya remains dynamic. Investors must stay informed about potential future changes and engage with policymakers to ensure fair and transparent regulations. This proactive approach will be crucial in navigating the evolving land investment environment.


The withdrawal of the Land Laws Amendment Bill 2024 is a temporary victory for landowners, offering a reprieve from the proposed annual levy on freehold land. However, the broader issues raised by the Gen Z protests and the Finance Bill 2024 highlight ongoing challenges in Kenya's legislative landscape. For land investors, the key to success lies in staying informed, engaging with policymakers, and advocating for fair and transparent regulations. The future of land investment in Kenya remains bright but demands vigilance, adaptability, and a commitment to justice.