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Squatters on verge of losing Sh12 billion land to powerful individuals

By Rawlings Otieno | Published Thu, June 14th 2018 at 09:43, Updated June 14th 2018 at 09:49 GMT +3
National Land Commission Chairman Muhammad Swazuri (right) peruses land ownership documents of Chege Mwangi, a beneficiary of Kamiti/Anmer land. NLC toured the land. [photo/John Karume/Standard]

In summary

  • More than 800 landless people claim the State gave them the property after they were displaced during tribal clashes in 1992.
  • Government agency said to have allowed illegal titles for 300 acres

A group of squatters have petitioned Parliament to order their permanent settlement on land valued at Sh12 billion they claim the Government allocated them in 1992.

The more than 800 squatters claimed powerful individuals, including officials in the current government, were out to snatch their 300 acres near Tatu City.

Members of Kamiti Forest Squatters Association (Kafsa) said they were victims of the 1992 tribal clashes.

In their petition, they told Parliament the then government allocated the land to them after they were displaced from their homes.

Their chairman, Njore Wakaba, said Kafsa's membership was initially 1,200.

They have asked the National Assembly’s Committee on Land, chaired by Kitui South MP Rachael Nyamai, to help resolve the dispute that has bogged them down for more than two decades.

They said they were concerned that a portion of the land had been degazetted.

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The property, known as Kamiti/Anmer/8390, was carved out of the initial 420 acres of Kenya Forest Service (KFS) reserve land.

The squatters have been fighting for the land with KFS and another group of beneficiaries, and the matter remains unresolved despite numerous court cases.

Former Cabinet ministers, senators and business moguls are also said to have their eyes on the prime land.

In their petition, the squatters asked Parliament to order KFS to keep off the land and allow them to settle on it permanently.

Political unrest

"We have been occupying the land for nearly 30 years. Our group comprises IDPs, mainly from Rift Valley, displaced during political unrest of 1992. But our settlement on the forest reserve was not without resistance by Government,” said Mr Wakaba.

In documents presented in Parliament, he said after agitation and with the help of former area MP Arthur Magugu (now deceased), the Kanu government directed that the squatters be allocated the land for their settlement.

It was followed by a written directive from then Central Provincial Commissioner Victor Musoga ordering the defunct Kiambu County Council to delineate the land to settle the squatters.

“It is unfortunate the directive opened an opportunity for individuals to start allocating themselves our land. This was done irregularly. It also denied us the right to occupy the land,” said Wakaba.

Through their lawyer Omagwa Angima, the squatters told the House committee that Mr Musoga’s letter was meant to have the land handed to them but this did not happen.

“The Government did not correct the problem despite persistent pleas by the squatters. Their cries have never elicited any decisive action to correct gross historical injustices,” said Mr Angima.

He told the committee beneficiaries of illegal titles never had the chance to settle on the land allocated to them after the Government stopped the exercise.

Irregular allocation

Although the lawyer declined to mention the names of those who benefited from the irregular allocation, he promised to submit them to the committee at a later date.

Angima said the dispute was taken before the National Land Commission, which has not done anything to date.

“NLC faulted the Government for annulling the illegal titles and in the same breath sought to legitimise the tainted titles by its decision. Worse still, the decision was made in favour of those who had corruptly and illegally obtained titles to the property,” Angima told the committee.

The Government's failure to stop cattle rustling was said to have aggravated the tribal clashes that flared up in 1992 between communities living on the Gucha and Trans Mara district borders.

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