Sultan of Oman returns to haunt land occupants in Mombasa

Residents of Mwembe Kuku, Mombasa County, protest yesterday against the return of descendants of the Oman Arabs who have threatened to kick them out of their residential houses if they will not buy the land at Sh8 million each. [PHOTO: GIDEON MAUNDU/STANDARD]

Thousands of tenants in Mombasa are in a panic after descendants of the Sultan of Zanzibar returned from Oman and threatened to evict them from land on which they have built houses.

Until around 1900, the Kenyan coastal strip was ruled by the Sultan of Zanzibar who descended from Oman. In 1825, the Sultan of Oman, Said Sayyid, migrated to Zanzibar from where he ruled his empire, including Kenyan coastal possessions. The sultan’s descendants went on to acquire vast swathes of land in coastal Kenya, which they still own.

More than 3,000 residents of Mwembe Kuku on Mombasa Island said they have sought the intervention of the National Land Commission (NLC) after the grandchildren of the Mombasa Liwalis asked them to move out of the land.

In a letter to the Mombasa land registrar dated July 29, NLC Chairman Muhammad Swazuri placed a caveat on the plots to stop their sale to other people until the matter is resolved.

Mwembe Kuku Welfare Society Spokesman Abdallahi Farah yesterday said the Sultan’s descendants have demanded through their lawyers in Mombasa that they pay Sh8 million and above per space occupied by their houses or face eviction.

“We are asking President Uhuru Kenyatta to intervene and negotiate with the descendants of the Sultan of Zanzibar like he did with the Waitiki Farm in Likoni to stop our impending eviction,” said Farah.

He said the crisis emerged when the descendants refused to honour summonses by the NLC to negotiate the land sale at a reasonable price and maintained the Sh8 million price, which was too high for the house owners.

The Liwalis' (colonial governors') grandchildren have inherited large chunks of land along the entire 10-mile coastal strip from Kwale, Mombasa, Kilifi and Lamu counties.

A member of the society, Abdulrahman Abdulkadir, said their fathers and grandfathers built houses on the disputed plots more than a century ago and they have been paying land rates monthly.

“We have been promptly paying monthly land rates to agents of the Liwali descendants, but things have taken a dramatic turn after they asked us to buy the spaces where our houses stand,” Abdulkadir said.

The residents said the expansive Swaleh Nguru land in Majengo had a similar problem, but was resolved after the title holders agreed to negotiations with the occupants.

However, the current cases were complicated when the Sultan’s descendants refused to negotiate with tenants under the guidance of the NLC.