Over 10,000 homeowners face eviction in Mombasa

Mwembe Kuku resident Abdillahi Farah Hajji during a briefing at Bondeni in Mombasa County on Saturday 30th March 2024. He, together with other Tenants at will appealed to the president and National Land Commission to intervene and help them get ownership and title deeds for the areas where they have built their houses. [Kelvin Karani, Standard]

Mombasa homeowners who built their houses on the land registered in the names of the descendants of pre-independence rulers have appealed to President William Ruto to intervene in a bitter tussle with their landlords.

The more than 10,000 tenants of Mwembe Kuku and Bondeni areas on Mombasa island said Wednesday they feared losing their homes because the landlords have threatened to sell the land they occupy at market prices which they cannot afford.

Their spokesman Mr Abdillahi Farah said they cannot afford the Sh7 million to Sh10 million per plot that the landlords want them to pay to save their houses.

According to Farah, their woes started in 2016 when the landlords formed a joint trust after changing their title deeds from those issued in pre-independence times.

"There is a danger of losing our homes that were built many years ago by our ancestors because the landlords have demanded that we pay exorbitant prices and we cannot afford because our incomes are low," he said.

He noted that the National Land Commission (NLC) under former chairman Prof Muhamed Swazuri had recommended that tenants pay the landlords between Sh400,000 and Sh500,000 per plot but this failed after the landlords rejected the offer from the commission.

A fortnight ago, the tenants appeared before NLC at Bandari Maritime Academy in Mombasa where the issues of tenants-at-will featured and they are waiting for the verdict in June this year.

Yesterday, former Mombasa mayor Mr Rajab Sumba claimed that it was wrong for the descendants of the former Liwalis (governors) of Mombasa to have been allowed by the Government to register land that they held in trust for the people as their family property.

"The Liwalis who are the equivalent of the governor held the land as public trustees and it is wrong to convert that land to family property," he protested.

Mr Sumba noted that President Ruto had pledged to meet absentee landlords in the Coast region when he addressed a public meeting in Mtwapa and they expected him to intervene in the conflict between tenants-at-will and their landlords at the Coast which has been neglected for many years.

A youth leader, Mr Ahmed Khamis, urged President Ruto to intervene noting that the matter has dragged on for many years even as they lived in fear of losing their homes.

"We are asking the president to come to our rescue because the landlords want to uproot us from our homes. We do not have anywhere else to go," Khamis said.

Ms Zuhra Adam Ali, a resident, urged Mombasa Governor Abdulswamad Nassir and other elected leaders to push for an amicable settlement of the matter saying that the landlords were now pushing them out of the area.

"We have elected leaders and this is when they should come out and save us from being evicted from our ancestral homes. We face real danger as our houses are about to be sold. We are living in fear," she said.

The tenants at Mwembe Kuku and Bondeni have built hundreds of houses on parcels measuring about 12 acres.

In the unique arrangement, the tenants-at-will built houses on land belonging to pre-independent rulers and agreed to pay monthly land rates raised over the years.

The landlords have been paying land rates to the Mombasa coCountyovernment, formerly the Mombasa municipal council.