Del Monte land to be given to slum dwellers, Waititu says

Del Monte MD Stergios Gkaliamouts and Kiambu Governor Ferdinand Waititu in Thika. [Photo, Kamau Maichuhie]

Even before the row over the renewal of Del Monte land lease is settled, Kiambu Governor Ferdinand Waititu has thrown another spanner in the works after he declared that slum dwellers from Thika will be settled on the land.

Speaking during Jamhuri Day celebrations held at Thika stadium, Waititu said part of the 635 acres surrendered by the company to the county will be used to settle the landless and squatters from Kiandutu, Matharau, Gachagi and Umoja slums.

“We must give part of the land to the people. Six hundred acres is a very big parcel of land. Even if we put public utilities and industries on a 100 acres, we will still have a lot of land remaining. There will be no need of keeping the remaining one and landless people with children are here,'' Waititu said.

The governor said landless people have to be settled since the land is available, adding he will ensure proper public participation will be done.

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“The land in Kiandutu and other slums in Thika is not enough for the people. We have to look for land elsewhere where they can live comfortably. The Del Monte land, which is now available, is for everybody,” he said.

The remarks by the governor contravene the stand by the National Land Commission, which recently stated the land that will be surrendered by the company will be public land.

NLC acting chairperson Abigael Mbagaya while speaking to the Standard said the land that will be surrendered will was meant for public use only.

“That land is not for Kiambu County, it becomes public land and it has been planned for. According to the law, the land cannot be used for private purposes,'' Mbagaya said.

Mr Waititu in September raised a storm after he signed a deal with the company’s Managing Director Stergios Gkaliamoutsas, agreeing to facilitate the renewal of leasehold for the firm’s 8,000-acre land in Kiambu for another 99 years.

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In return, the food processing firm agreed to surrender 635 acres to the county.

Thika MP Patrick Wainaina, who was also present, said there is a need proper public participation and consultation.

Mr Wainaina said the 635 acres that has been given out by the company is too little to settle all the people from the slums in Thika.

“The land surrendered is very little and the people cannot fit there. It is not the kind of land that you can tell people to go and subdivide for themselves. If you do that, it will only create violence and bloodshed,” said Mr Wainaina.

The MP said the best option is to put up markets, hospitals, jua kali stalls so that many residents can benefit by doing business.

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“The land should be used for public gain. I am opposed to people being allowed to put up houses since it will only breed conflict with those not given demanding their share,” he said.

Senator Kimani Wamatangi has also faulted the signing of the MoU to facilitate the renewal of leasehold between the governor and the company, saying local leaders were not involved.

In a letter copied to the chairman of the National Land Commission (NLC), Central Regional Commissioner, Kiambu County Commissioner and the Del Monte MD, Wamatangi says the MoU overlooked certain issues and requirements.

But he points out that the firm also draws benefits from the land, which belongs to the people of Kiambu.

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WaitituKiambu GovernorDel MonteKiambu CountyNational Land Commission