National Assembly Land Committee chairman Rachel Nyamai (centre) and members, Laikipia County MP Catherine Waruguru (left) and Ruiru MP Simon King'ara, when they met squatters at Kamiti Anmer Primary School on Friday. [Kamau Maichuhie, Standard]

A parliamentary committee is trying to resolve a 23-year land dispute between the Kenya Forest Service and squatters.

Four groups are battling the agency for the 419-acre Kamiti/Anmer whose value is estimated at Sh12 billion.

Each of the four groups of squatters as well as Kenya Forest Service (KFS) have laid claim to the parcel.

Kamiti Anmer Development Association, Kamiti Forest Squatters Association (KAFSA), Muungano Wa Kamiti Society and Kamiti Anmer Squatters Welfare Group all claim the land belongs to them.

However, KFS has maintained that the land is its property as it was never degazetted from being a forest after it was allegedly handed over to the squatters.

The National Assembly Land Committee, chaired by Kitui South MP Rachel Nyamai, toured the farm on a fact-finding mission.

The visit came months after one of the squatter groups, KAFSA, petitioned Parliament, asking that its members be permanently settled on the land it claimed the Government allocated it in 1992.

The group told Parliament that its members were allocated the land after they were displaced from their homes during the 1992 tribal clashes.

The squatters asked Parliament to order KFS to keep off the land.

KAFSA chairman Njoroge Wakaba asked the committee to help resolve the row.

The group told the MPs that in 1994, the then Central PC directed the defunct Kiambu County Council to have them settled on the land, but the order was ignored.

"It is unfortunate that instead of settling squatters on the land, individuals started distributing it among themselves and denied us the right to occupy it,” said Mr Wakaba.

The committee met the squatters last Friday at Kamiti Anmer Primary School to collect views.

Apart from Ms Nyamai, other committee members present were Simon King’ara (Ruiru), George Sunkuyia (Kajiado West), Joshua Kuttuny (Cherangany), Catherine Waruguru (Laikipia County) and Jude Njomo (Kiambu Town).

The MPs also met officials from KFS, the National Land Commission (NLC) and the county security committee at the county commissioner’s office in Kiambu town.

Mr PMG Kamau, a former town clerk of the defunct Kiambu County Council, told the committee that the Government gave the land to squatters in 1994 after former Githunguri MP Arthur Magugu made an appeal on their behalf.

He tabled a letter showing that in 1994, the Government directed that 300 acres be allocated to the squatters.

The letter, dated December 5, 1994, by then Central PC Victor Musoga and addressed to him, showed the Government approved the degazettement of the forest.

“I have looked into the matter and considered the historical background and I have concluded that for now, we shall allow the Kiambu County Council an area of 300 acres in Kamiti Forest. Please remind the council that settlement of squatters will take priority over anything else,” it reads.

The representatives of the squatters - Wakaba, Benson Muiruri, Peter Mwaura and James Kinuthia - pleaded with the committee to help them get titles to the land.

Allotment letters

In its letter dated October 15, 2015, to the KFS director, NLC sided with the squatters, saying they had been issued with allotment letters.

Mr Sankuyia said: "We will stand with the people. We cannot sit back and watch schools, churches and houses that have been built on the land demolished." 

Mr King’ara asked the groups to unite and pursue ownership of the land as one entity.