|Squatters protest at Kilifi County Lands registry Wednesday over delay in issuance of title deeds. Local leaders have called for vetting of all beneficiaries. [PHOTO: Joseph masha/STANDARD]|
By Joseph Masha and Patrick Beja
KENYA: Wrangles have emerged over title deeds issued by President Uhuru Kenyatta last month in Coast region forcing officials to order a fresh audit of beneficiaries.
In Kilifi, tempers flared yesterday when some squatters invaded the local lands office demanding titles promised by the Head of State but learnt that the government was withholding the documents while studying complaints raised by leaders.
Authorities confirmed the title deeds affected are for Mavueni block 3 A and Gathecha Settlement Scheme that are part of the 19,000 title deeds issued by the President at Karisa Maitha grounds recently.
Kilifi County Commissioner Erastus Ekidor said that some of the titles will not be distributed until an audit to ascertain the beneficiaries is done. Yesterday, squatters stormed the county lands registry accusing officials of illegally holding onto title deeds issued by the President last month.
Mr Ekidor admitted that the government was holding the title deeds after leaders protested to the State over beneficiaries.
“It is true that title deeds for Mavueni block B and those from Gathecha settlement schemes are being held at the lands registry but this happened after local leaders raised suspicion to show that the land could have been allocated to non-squatters,” said Ekidor. The squatters said Mavueni settlement was adjudicated in 1987 and about 2,500 title deeds prepared.
“It is painful to hear that title deeds numbering over 2,000 from Mavueni block B have been held at the land registry and yet they were officially released to squatters by President Uhuru Kenyatta,” said Mr Said Murera. Riot police officers had to be called in to control the unruly squatters from damaging property at the registry.
A registrar Mr Joseph Thaura confirmed local leaders had lodged complaints with Lands Cabinet Secretary Charity Ngilu asking that the deeds be held to ascertain beneficiaries.
Since the government released the title deeds for free collection by beneficiaries, squatters in Kilifi County have been flocking to the lands registry to collect them
In related development, leaders in Mombasa, Lamu and Tana River counties say they are still holding the bulk of the title deeds issued by the President for thorough vetting for fear they could contain names of ‘strangers’.
In Mombasa County, which received 3,400 title deeds for Jomvu, Mikanjuni and Zila la Ng’ombe where squatters were listed 15 years ago, county leaders are auditing the documents afresh to avoid releasing them to people who were not intended to benefit.
Mombasa County lands executive member Francis Thoya confirmed yesterday over 3,000 titles will be vetted to ensure the papers are issued to the right people to stem possible conflict on the ground.
County government and land officials have to countercheck the beneficiaries and ensure they are the right people intended to collect the titles, he said.
Thoya questioned why the national government rushed to release the 60,000 titles, warning that this could haunt the area if auditing was not carried out before release to beneficiaries. Lamu county executive member for lands Amina Masoud said Uhuru gave 60 title deeds for Pate Island out of total 2,000 titles that were ready. The rest will be audited by county government and Ministry of Lands officials.