Governor Amason Kingi initiates talks to avert eviction of 35,000 squatters

Kilifi Governor Amason Kingi. [File, Standard]

Talks to end a 40-year impasse between squatters and a family over the ownership of 7,100-acre land in Mariakani, Kilifi County, have finally started.

Governor Amason Kingi's administration said the late Mumba Chome Ngala family and representatives of 35,000 squatters have agreed to negotiate.

In 2018, the Court of Appeal in Malindi temporarily stopped the eviction of the squatters from the land until their case was heard and determined.

High Court Judge Oscar Angote had ruled on July 19, 2017, that the land belongs to the Ngala clan.

The ruling left three clans of Mwabeja, Mwamundu and Mwakai in the Mitangoni area landless and in a state of panic as they feared an imminent eviction.

The three clans appealed the High Court judgement, saying the title deed given to the Ngala family on August 26, 2014, was acquired fraudulently.

Some of the squatters signed an out-of-court settlement with the Ngala family, but the matter was not brought before the court to withdraw the appeal.

Clan elders, including Mwambeyu Ngala and Ms Mbudzya, opposed the agreement and moved to the Court of Appeal to block its implementation.

Now, Kilifi Land and Physical Planning Executive Maureen Mwangovya says a team of elders and religious leaders will lead the talks.

Ms Mwangovyo said this after meeting the Ngala family, religious leaders and representatives of the squatters to find a truce.

On October 8, there was tension in the area after reports emerged that the county had issued an eviction letter. Later, it was discovered that it was an enforcement order.

Mwangovya said the enforcement notice was meant to stop illegal construction on the disputed land.

"The enforcement notice was only directed to people developing the piece of land without following the right procedure," she said.

Hinzano Ngala, one of the descendants of Mumba Chome Ngala, said the politicians who incite squatters had complicated the dispute.

He said the family had spent colossal sums of money to defend their land in courts.

"Our grandfather died, our parents have died, and it is now the grandchildren fighting for our land," said Hinzano.

"Some squatters sold parts of the land to developers. Some of them come from very far to cause chaos."

Hinzano said the family was ready to cede 1,000 acres to settle genuine squatters.

Bishop Anthony Kenga of the Pentecostal Assemblies Church, representing the squatters, said they support the talks to end the dispute.

"We support the county's initiative to address this dispute, which has dragged in the corridors of justice for decades," he said.

However, he said some selfish individuals plan to derail the process of ensuring squatters obtain land ownership documents.

"Governor Kingi has invited locals, Kaya, and local political leaders for discussions to see the best way of addressing the land ownership issue," said Kenga.     

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