Scheme residents protest ‘illegitimate settlers’ tag

Residents of Mwea and Makima wards in Embu County in peaceful demonstration at Mwanzo market to protest remarks by a local elected leader that people currently residing in the controversial Mwea settlement scheme are illegal settlers. (Joseph Muchiri, Standard)
Residents of Mwea and Makima wards in Embu County staged a peaceful demonstrations at Mwanzo market to protest remarks by a local elected leader that people currently residing in the controversial Mwea settlement scheme are illegal settlers.

Carrying tree branches and placards with words denouncing the utterances, the demonstrators expressed concern that careless remarks by leaders could cause tension in the area.

Mwea council of elders deputy chairman Sila Mwaniki said they had resided in the land for over 50 years and have nowhere else to call home.

He said the way out of the quagmire on the 44,000 acre disputed land would be a repeat of the demarcation and issuance of tittle deeds in a transparent way.

In 2016, the Embu County Government subdivided the land and issued 7,232 title deeds but the process of resettling the beneficiaries failed after squatters opposed the move leading to violent confrontation in which one person died while about a dozen were injured.

Many residents were angry after they missed out on the allocation yet some beneficiaries were allocated over 100 acres each. 

Makima Ward MCA Philip Nzangi said the Makima and Mwea people are peace loving adding that leaders should be held accountable for incidences that might arise from his utterances.

He faulted the local security enforcement agencies for dispersing meetings convened by scheme dwellers to discuss their issues.

"I am not a criminal but an elected leader yet when I convene meetings, police officers are deployed to disrupt and disperse the people," said Mr Nzangi.

A week earlier, hundreds of scheme residents held interdenominational prayers at Ndune shrine, over the violence in the scheme three months ago.

They said they were still traumatized by the violence that erupted after residents clashes with police who were bringing in new owners. 

However, they were forced to cut short their prayers after police from Kiritiri arrived and ordered them to leave, saying the gathering was illegal. 

Pastor Shadrack Kilonzo, who was among the religious leaders conducting the service said there was simmering tension after people who were allocated the land vowed to storm it.

He said the Embu leadership had never condemned the shooting or visited the victims.

He noted whereas Kirinyaga county government waived bills of those who were treated at Kerugoya General Hospital, those treated at Embu Level Five Hospital were held until they cleared their bills.

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mwea settlement schemeEmbu CountyMakima Ward MCA Philip Nzangi