Groups tussle over 200-acre State land

A faction leader of Kirinyaga's Mihiriga Kenda clans (nine clans), Mugo Kabeu addressing the media outside the Kirinyaga County Government Headquarters in Kutus town over the contested ownership of 200 acres in Mwea. [Photo: Munene Kamau]

A group of 15,000 people has staked claim to a 200-acre parcel which is already occupied by tenants of the National Irrigation Board (NIB) land.

Yesterday, the group calling itself Mihiriga Kenda (nine clans) led by its Secretary General Mugo Kabeu stormed the county government offices in Kutus, demanding audience with Governor Anne Waiguru over the land.

The group was, however, restrained at the entrance by security guards.

Kabeu, while addressing the media later outside the offices, claimed his group had been informed it would meet National Land Commission Chairman Muhammad Swazuri alongside Ms Waiguru to have the land officially handed over to them.

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However, neither Waiguru nor Swazuri turned up for the meeting. The governor was out on official duties. Surprisingly, Kabeu had no letter to show the meeting had been scheduled.

After a while, Mihiriga Kenda became sharply divided with two rival groups emerging, each maintaining it was the legitimate one to represent the over 15,000 members.

Sh1 million

The groups were, however, restrained by the police officers manning the gate.

Kabeu and his group later trooped to a nearby open ground where he asked the landless members to raise Sh1 million for a lawyer they have hired.

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“As you all know, our case is still active in court and we have legal fees to pay which must be raised urgently,” he told the group.

The land in question was allocated to 1,000 families by the NIB in 1999 in its efforts to decongest the densely populated tenant villages within the irrigation scheme.

The land had been left unoccupied by the board and was under its trusteeship until several years ago when the clans under the leadership of Kabeu started laying claim to it.

Moments after the group left the venue dancing in praise of Kabeu, a splinter group led by Simon Muchiri arrived at the venue and dismissed assertions by the rival group that the land although occupied belonged to the nine clans.

“The Kabeu group has been and still is going round collecting Sh4,700 from desperate members of the public who are made to belief there is free land for allocation while the facts are clear already there are about 1,000 families settled on the 200-acre land,” Muchiri said.

Muchiri called on the government to intervene urgently.

Yesterday, Kabeu maintained he had a court decree indicating the land belonged to Mihiriga Kenda. But when challenged to produce the document for verification, he failed to do so.

“I will produce the court decree at an appropriate time but what you should understand is that the matter is already being handled by Swazuri who has promised to ensure it reverts to us Mihiriga Kenda,” he asserted.

The settlers whom the Muchiri faction vouches for have vowed to resist any attempts to evict them from the land.

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National Irrigation BoardMihiriga KendaMugo KabeuGovernor Anne WaiguruMuhammad Swazuri