Establishment of the more than 2,300 acre-Ziwani Settlement Scheme in Taita-Taveta County has opened up the disputed area to land cartels, Sunday Standard has learnt.
Consequently, thousands of squatters now face a bleak future.
Though the move by the Kenyatta family in 2013 to donate the land to squatters was welcome, many opposed its conversion into a settlement scheme because thousands of squatters had been displaced by cartels comprising politicians and Ministry of Land officials.
They said National Government should have declared the land an adjudication section instead of a settlement scheme to avoid displacements.
How the State has handled the issue has been questioned by some.
Is there lasting solution?
“The Government will not get a lasting solution to the land problem through public meetings. The committee spearheading the settlement scheme is comprised of cronies of powerful politicians. To solve the issue, the Government should declare the land an adjudication area,” said Mombasa lawyer Stephen Odiaga.
The land has been an epicentre of conflict between squatters, surveyors and the police. One person was shot dead and scores seriously injured in recent land clashes.
During the skirmishes, 11 people among them three police officers suffered gunshot and arrow wounds and were treated in Tanzania as the Taveta Sub County Hospital lacks X-ray machines.
“You cannot make a settlement scheme in an area where people have already occupied the land. We have raised legal issues with the authorities but no one is listening.
“The issue was hurriedly done to suit the interest of certain individuals,” said Odiaga who hails from Taveta Sub County.
According to some leaders, only 800 out of 4,000 squatters were issued with title deeds by Deputy President William Ruto last year. They also say about 3,200 squatters have been displaced.
They called for the cancellation of the issued titles claiming genuine squatters were left out in the settlement programme.
These are some of the issues that emerged from a stormy meeting last week chaired by Taita Taveta Governor Granton Samboja, immediate former County Commissioner Kula Hache and Senator Jones Mwaruma.
“We have been deprived of our land rights because a number of the genuine squatters who had been living on the land for years have been left out of the project,” Henry Mutua, a squatter said.
“Majority of us has been left out of the settlement programme and yet we are the genuine land owners. We demand for fresh settlement exercise,” said Mr Mutua.
The father of nine said he had been living on the land since 1975. Mutua said the exercise was done without involvement of the squatters and elders in the seven villages covering Sir Ramson land holding.
As experts have noted, the matter is complicated.
Director of Survey Cesare Mbaria and Deputy Director of Survey Henry Ngomo who are leading a team of more than 50 surveyors in the area noted there were typographic anomalies in the titles.
The officials disclosed that there were double allocations as 71 cases of title deeds were issued to more than one person and 27 others issued to same family members.
Mr Mbaria however assured the squatters that Taveta Land Control Board will deal with all the cases within one month.
Samboja and Mwaruma agree that residents had not been involved in the process as required by the law hence the resistance.
The Governor said persistent land disputes was slowly down development growth and investment of the county and must be addressed urgently.
To chart a way forward, Samboja picked seven elders from the seven villages to work with the technical team to spearhead the exercise.
Following claims of illegal allocation on the controversial land, the government has dispatched the Criminal Investigations Department officers to investigate the matter.