3,000 squatters to settle on disputed Teita Estate land

The process of settling thousands of squatters living on the disputed Teita Sisal Estate in Taita Taveta County has started.

Surveyors have been deployed to excise the disputed land in the vast farm on the outskirts of Mwatate town to settle more than 3,000 squatters.

This is after the national and county governments funded the survey and demarcation at Singila and Majengo villages to the tune of Sh1.2 million.

The farm management has set aside 250 acres to settle the squatters in the two villages.

Governor Granton Samboja confirmed yesterday that the surveyors have 90 days to complete the exercise, to pave way for settling the squatters who have been living on the disputed land for years.

“Survey of the vast farm has already started and after 90 days we will issue title deeds to the squatters. We have partnered with the national government to equally share the survey cost to facilitate the settlement,” the governor told a meeting at his Mwatate office yesterday.

The meeting was attended by leaders from the two villages

Surrender land

Samboja told the meeting that Teita Sisal Estate had earlier agreed to cede part of its land to settle the landless.

“We have reached an agreement to end the long-standing boundary dispute with the management of the farm and squatters. The farm management has agreed to surrender a section of its sisal estate to settle the squatters,” said the governor yesterday.

He told the meeting that it had not been easy carrying out survey in the farm due to intimidation by cartels opposed to the settlement of the landless.

Land and Mining Executive Mwandawiro Mghanga told the residents to exercise caution so as not to fall prey to land cartels that have been collecting money under the pretext of settling the landless.

“Those corrupt people claiming to register people tend to forget that the land in question is now public land,” said Mwandawiro.

The land has been at the centre of a conflict between the squatters and the farm’s management, with each side claiming ownership and accusing the other of encroachment.

Following the resolution, the squatters will be settled on a 250 acre-plot set aside by the farm management.

A survey conducted two years ago showed that the squatters had encroached on the 32,000-acre private farm, regarded as the largest in East and Central Africa.

Lasting solution

“Surveyors excised the land occupied by the squatters from the main farm,” said Samboja. 

Last year, during an inspection tour of the farm, Lands Chief Administrative Secretary Gideon Mung’aro disclosed that the national government had reached an agreement with the management to settle the squatters who had lived on the land for many years.

“The government is implementing a resolution that was passed by Parliament years ago to settle squatters who have lived on the farm for years,” said Mung’aro.

In an earlier interview, the farm’s Managing Director Phillip Kyriaz confirmed that they were working with the government to find a lasting-solution to the squatter menace.