Skip to main content

People with Disabilities (PWDs) involvement in Urban Making: the case of Kajiado land validation process

By February 16, 2024No Comments

by Peter Muraya


As part of the Refugees Led Research Hub (RLRH)-British Institute in Eastern Africa (BIEA) Graduate Attachment Scheme (GAS) and under the mentorship of one of the BIEA Fellows, I actively engaged in fieldwork activities within the Regional Futures Project (REGFUT). During field visits to Kajiado town, I observed that on that day, people with disabilities (PWDs) were absent during a land ownership documents verification exercise by the Kajiado County Department of Land, Physical Planning, Housing, Urban Development, and Municipalities (from here on referred to as the Kajiado Department of Lands). The verification process had been preceded by a land validation exercise undertaken the week before. What follows is my account of PWDs’ involvement in the land validation and verification exercises in the rapidly urbanising Kajiado County. The verification account is my field observations, while the land validation account is based on my interview with two officials during one of the field visits. It is important to note that I did not interview the PWDs however this can be done in subsequent research works to build on this work. The essay proceeds as follows: my approach to PWDs inclusion, the context of Kajiado County urbanisation and land sector, the past is prologue, land validation and verification and PWDs, and conclusion.

The social model of disability

Campbell (2019) defines ableism as a system of causal relations about the order of life that produces processes and systems of entitlement and exclusion. Whereas Imrie & Wells (1992) and Gappmayer (2020) explain disablism as conscious or unconscious ideologies that foster differentiated inferior treatment based on presumed disability or impairment. Underlying this ableism and disablism approach, which I view as discriminatory, is an extension of the medical model of disability, which views disability as incapacitated to adapt to the environment (Saxton, 2018). The discriminatory approach, throughout history to the present day, has viewed PWDs as incapable of doing anything (Saxton, 2018). I adopt Calgaro’s (2021) approach, which he emphasises PWDs’ participation in society, i.e., understanding of disability as a long-term physical, mental, intellectual, or sensory impairment that, in interaction with various attitudinal, environmental, and institutional barriers, may hinder full and effective participation in society on an equal basis with others. I use this approach as I am interested in querying PWDs’ participation in the two land administration exercises undertaken by the Kajiado Department of Lands.   

Kajiado County’s Urbanisation and the Land Sector

Kajiado County is located south of Nairobi. Its proximity to the capital city has led to an influx of population [people with and without disabilities], business, and industrial activities. For example, the 2019 census found that Kajiado County’s population had risen to 1,117,840 from 687,312 in 2009 (KNBS 2019, 2009). Factors including a rise in population and a rise in land prices in Nairobi and Kiambu counties have led to an increase in the demand for land for different uses. The population growth has also contributed to the growth of the county’s urban centres, such as Kitengela Municipality.

Further, the County’s Integrated Development Plan notes that the increased demand for land has led to “increased land subdivision and fragmentation of agricultural land into unsustainable portions affecting rural livelihoods” (CGK 2018, p. 28). The increased subdivision of community land, especially those bordering the urban centres due to increasing land values, to private land stands in contrast to the Maasai community’s communal ownership of their lands. The high demand for land within the county has also attracted unsavoury characters in the county’s land sector, leading to increased fraudulent[1] land transactions.

Past is prologue

One of the key reasons the county is undertaking the validation and verification exercises is to cure past fraudulent allotment letters issued by defunct local authorities such as the Olkejuado County Council. It is important to note that the situation is not unique to only Kajiado County as Manji (2020) and Klopp (2000) noted the use of land as a political tool was widespread, moreso before the promulgation of the new constitution. As one official noted, defunct political leaders could allocate one parcel of land severally more so to their political allies. It is because of this approach that in the different trading centres that they were validating, they had found several cases of multiple allocations of one plot. While it is true that the use of land as a political tool was widespread before the 2010 constitution, it would be very remiss of me not to note that land administration in Kenya is still very much a political issue.

Land Validation & Verification and PWDs

To address the land administration problems caused by the politicisation of trading centre plots allocation by the defunct local authorities, the Kajiado Department of Lands decided to issue new generation allotment letters via the Kajiado County Land Information Management System (LIMS). These allotment letters are issued to all plot owners following a mandatory process that involved cleaning up of the ownership data. The data cleaning process includes the validation and verification processes. As understood here, the land validation exercise refers to on-the-field processes through which the county officials from the Kajiado Department of Lands and the National Land Commission (NLC) ascertain the ownership of the trading centres plots that are allocated and administered by the county government through the Kajiado Department of Lands. This exercise involves plot holders standing on their plots of land- built or unbuilt- while county officials move from one plot to the next, authenticating and recording the holder’s details and signing and stamping allotment letters for further administrative procedures. The land verification process, on the other hand, entails the physical authentication of land ownership documents (allotment letter, land rate payments, and land search document). Evident in the two tiresome exercises is the embodiment of physicality, strength, and energy. Also noteworthy was the non-consideration of PWDs’ needs during the two exercises. For example, the lack of a place for PWDs requiring assistance may sit as they wait for their documents to be verified. The official, acknowledging that PWDs owned plots in the trading centre, noted there was an oversight which perhaps was caused by them not having a PWD among them when making the validation and verification plans and their expectation that just like the elderly PWDs would not participate in the two exercises but would send their family members to represent them. This shows the importance of adequate representation and the limitations of certain PWDs’ behaviour expectations.

My observation of the verification shows that PWDs were largely absent from the process. Only one PWD participated during my observation period. One of my speculative theories as to why only ONE PWD was present was that the county had not adopted an inclusive public communication mechanism. As one official described, traditional communication means such as posters were used. According to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and Kenya’s PWDs Act (2020), these traditional approaches to communication are discriminatory as they are not inclusive of accessible and assistive technologies to communicate. The exclusionary nature of the approach adopted by the officials was evident in the validation and verification process, where different domains of disability, such as, mobility, seeing, cognition, hearing, self-care, and communication, were not considered in the planning stages. As a result, there was the risk of non-communication with PWDs who, for example, are visually impaired and could not read the posters shared through the newspapers and digitally, e.g., through WhatsApp. Similarly, during the validation exercise, mobility difficulties were not considered, as evidenced by the requirement that all landowners stand on their plots, showing an ableist approach devoid of PWD considerations.

In most contextual analyses of inclusion, PWDs are usually lumped together with the larger marginalised groups though in an ableist or disablist approach which excise their voice (Gappmayer, 2020).  As a result, it is not a wonder that when I queried officials as to why PWDs were not considered they remarked that “they [PWDs] should be represented by their kin” as it happens for other groups such as the elderly. It did occur to these officials that this was an ableist discriminatory language embedded with so many risks, such as misrepresentation leading to land losses. For example, one of the officials I interviewed gave an example of a case of an elderly person who had little understanding of land administration processes and had indicated that he wanted to transfer 70 acres of his 1000 acres, but the land agents who were acting on his behalf added a zero and submitted a request to excise 700 acres. The issue, in his view, was only arrested when the matter was explained to the elderly person in his local language what was happening. This anecdotal example shows that representation is not the panacea to the problem of excluding PWDs in the project implementation designs. It is, therefore, imperative that officials design truly inclusive land administrationimplementation initiatives.   


The foregoing shows the non-consideration of PWDs and their different needs in the validation and verification exercises planning. It is because of this exclusion that I argue in future processes the county should consider the socio-physical infrastructure inhibiting PWDs’ participation. This, in my view, will shift the PWD’s perspective from people who need help (e.g., representation by their kin) and liability to how best to create an enabling and inclusive socio-physical environment for the full and effective participation of PWDs in the validation and verification processes. It is only in doing this that the Kajiado Department of Lands will promote disability rights in the different initiatives it is undertaking.


Calgaro, E (2021). Climate Disaster Risk, Disability, and ResilienceCurrent History 120 (829). Pp 320-325. doi:

Campbell F. K. (2019). Precision Ableism: A Studies in Ableism Approach to Developing Histories of Disability and Abledment. Rethinking History, Vol 23 No 2. Pp 138-156. DOI: 10.1080/13642529.2019.1607475

County Government of Kajiado [CGK]. 2018. County Integrated Development Plan (CIDP). County Government of Kajiado. Kajiado, Kenya. 

FENNEY, D. (2017). Ableism and Disablism in the UK Environmental Movement. Environmental Values 26: 503–522. Doi: 10.3197/096327117X14976900137377

Gappmayer, G. (2020): Disentangling Disablism and Ableism: The Social Norm of Being Able and its Influence on Social Interactions with People With Intellectual Disabilities. Journal of Occupational Science. DOI: 10.1080/14427591.2020.1814394

Government of Kenya PWDs Act (2003). Persons With Disability Act No. 14 of 2003. National Council for Law Reporting. Nairobi, Kenya.

Imrie, R. F and Wells, P. E (1992). Disablism, Planning, and The Built Environment. Environment and Planning C: Government and Policy. Volume 11. Pp 213-231.

Jaffee, L and John, K. (2018). Disabling Bodies of/and Land: Reframing Disability Justice in Conversation with Indigenous Theory and Activism. Disability and the Global South. Vol.5, No. 2. Pp 1407-1429.

Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (2019). 2019 Kenya Population and Housing Census Volume I: Population by County and Sub-County. Kenya National Bureau of Statistics. Nairobi, Kenya.

Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (2009). 2009 Kenya Population and Housing Census Volume IA: Population Distribution by Administrative Units. Kenya National Bureau of Statistics. Nairobi, Kenya.

Klopp, J. (2000). Pilfering the Public: The Problem of Land Grabbing in Contemporary Kenya. Africa Today. Pp 7-26.

Manji, A. (2020). The Struggle for Land and Justice in Kenya. Rethinking Historical Land Injustices. Boydell and Brewer Inc. New York, US. Pp 140-144.

Saxton, M. and Ghenis, A (2018). Disability Inclusion in Climate Change: Impacts and Intersections. Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Equality and Diversity, Special Issue: Climate Change and intersectionality. Volume 4, Issue 1. Pp 1-28.

United Nation (2008). Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and Optional Protocol. The United Nation

World Bank Group (2018). Disability Inclusion and Accountability Framework. The World Bank. Washington, USA.



Author BIEA

More posts by BIEA

Leave a Reply