By PAUL GITAU
Over 4,500 squatters at the Weru Ranch in Malindi District risk missing out on land allocation due to legal action.
A group of squatters in Lango Baya Location is threatening court action to block the processing of title deeds alleging an inflation of numbers and political interference in the exercise, which had stalled since 2005 when a court authorised it. The residents have been squatting in the ranch for decades.
Chairman of Muungano Wa Wakulima, Gerald Iha Thoya, said Monday they had contacted a lawyer to stop Ministry of Lands officials, Directors of Weru Ranch and local MP from allocating land.
Thoya said the farmers went to court in 2005 seeking to legally own part of the ranch they had occupied for decades and in 2006, the court ordered that about 9,546 hectares be hived off from the ranch for the locals.
The court further directed the farmers to engage a surveyor to establish boundaries so that the Ministry of Lands could register their land and issue them with title deeds.
Monday, Thoya said the group secured money to establish the boundaries but now a powerful politician has hijacked the exercise and secured money to subdivide the parcel. And the squatters claimed politicians have raised the number of projected beneficiaries to 4,500 from 2,000.
“We want to know where the additional 2,500 squatters came from,” Thoya said. He said a leader from the area was trying to manipulate the process for political gain using Constituency Development Fund money to subdivide private land.
But Malindi MP Gideon Mung’aro dismissed Thoya’s allegations disclosing the land in question was Government property after he spearheaded negotiations with Ministry of Lands officials and ranch directors that led to the latter surrendering it to the State.
“It is no longer private land and I did this in good faith so that the locals should not spend a coin paying for subdivision,” he noted Monday. Mung’aro said he had disbursed some funds from the CDF kitty to facilitate the land officials conduct the exercise, arguing it could have taken a long time waiting for the ministry to provide money for the subdivision.
The MP said his sole interest was to ensure squatters were settled. Malindi District Land and Adjudication Officer James Kamau said the ministry was approached by directors of the ranch who claimed subdividing the land to local people would cost them Sh120 million, which they could not afford. Kamau said the ranch has since surrendered the land to the Government.