Former MP and leaders in fresh land tussle over historical site

Former Taveta MP Basil Criticos addressing the press at his Grogan Castle Hotel where he announced the establishment of Lake Jipe Conservancy yesterday at his vast farm. [Photo: Renson Nyamwezi/Standard]

A dispute is brewing between a former Taveta MP and local leaders over the fencing off of a historical battle field.

Basil Criticos has fenced off the disputed Salaita Hill inside his proposed Lake Jipe Wildlife Sanctuary, drawing protests from residents and leaders.

Salaita was the gateway to Taveta and Tanzania, then German East Africa. The area was occupied and made into a strong defensive position by the Germans in 1914.

The hill was attacked three times by the British, but they were beaten off with heavy losses twicen - on March 29, 1915 when 300 troops were involved, and February 12, 1916 when 6,000 troops were repulsed by 1,200 Germans. The Germans were, however beaten on March 8, 1916.

Criticos told off his critics, insisting that the 250-acre parcel belongs to him.

“The beacons have been identified (by the county government surveyors) and I have already secured Salaita Hill, which is part of the proposed Lake Jipe Sanctuary,” said the politician.

“The hill is a national monument and it is on my farm. I do not want people to invade it and that is why I have fenced it to protect it from land grabbers,” he added.

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The former MP has also built an electric fence around 1,000 acres, constructed three dams and conducted an environmental impact assessment with the aim of establishing Lake Jipe Conservancy.

Yesterday residents and their leaders accused the former MP of grabbing public utility land.

Led by County Assembly Deputy Speaker Chrispus Tondoo, County Assembly Minority Leader Ronald Sagurani, MCAs Chanzu Khamadi and Paul Mmare, they claimed the area had been gazetted as a national monument and accused the former MP of grabbing it.

Mr Khamadi claimed the disputed area (LR Number 10287/3) was initially owned by Jipe Multipurpose but was later gazetted by the Government in 2014 as a national heritage.

“We have documents showing the disputed area is gazetted and Mr Criticos should keep off the area,” said the MCA.

But Criticos was adamant: “As far as I am concerned the land in dispute belongs to me and I have documents to authenticate this.

“Those claiming the land belongs to Jipe Multipurpose are a misguided lot because I have a title deed. The Multipurpose land is on the other side of the Taveta-Mwatate road and I have never encroached on any land as claimed by some people,” he said

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