Squatters scared as absentee landlords threaten return

The National Land Commission (NLC) has urged local squatters to be calm after absentee landlords from Oman threatened to repossess their land.

Addressing residents of Marafa in Magarini sub-county on Saturday, NLC County Coordinator Ummi Kughula said the commission was engaging the Omani landlords in a bid to solve the land matter.

She said the Omanis had the right to the land since they were issued with title deeds in 1908 by the British colonialists.

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Many residents of Coastal counties, especially Mombasa and Kilifi, occupy land they do not own and pay annual rent to the so-called absentee landlords, most of whom are descendants of Omani Arabs that ruled the Kenyan coast for close to three centuries before British colonialists.

British colonial laws, including the 1908 ordinance, only accentuated this feudal-like land tenure system.

The commission, she said, had proposed that the owners sell the land to current inhabitants at a fee of between Sh400,000 and Sh500,000 per acre, but the landlords turned down the offer.

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“Negotiations are still on and the matter will be resolved. The Omanis got the 1908 ordinance titles that are still valid under our laws,” she said.

The Marafa meeting was organised by the Institute of Participatory Development (IPD) that spearheads land rights in Malindi and Magarini sub-counties.

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The current inhabitants have been paying rent to absentee landlords for decades and the initiative to buy the land may help resolve the century-long standoff.

The Omanis were allocated the land along the 10-mile coastal strip for free by the Sultan of Zanzibar.

They have fronted their proposal of selling the land at between Sh4 million and Sh9 million per acre.

The tenants had complained after the land rent increased from Sh1,000 to Sh11,000 per month.

IPD Coordinator Mzungu Ngoma said his organisation would continue to fight for the land rights of the locals so that historical injustices are addressed. 

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National Land CommissionUmmi KughulaOmanSquatters