In August 2010, Kenya's citizens adopted a new Constitution. Intended to rein in an imperial presidency, the Constitution initiated one of the most ambitious governance reforms seen in Sub-Saharan Africa. ‘Devolution’ establishes 47 counties with extensive powers led by a directly elected governor and legislative assembly. The transition has exposed fault lines as actors struggle over the delineation of power. This paper presents the fight between the National Land Commission and the Ministry of Lands over the right to manage public land in the period 2013–2016. The paper argues that the difficulties associated with land reform arise because of the centrality of land allocation to the maintenance of power in the country. NLC's potential to transform land relations – by addressing land grabbing, effecting land redistribution, and ensuring land access by marginalised groups – is limited. This is due to the paucity of unallocated public land and the continued strength of Kenya's statist land tenure regime.