Farmers count losses as crops destroyed on disputed land

Lugari Railways B village elder John Simiyu during the interview on June 25, 2019. [Benjamin Sakwa/Standard]

At least 20 households have been evicted from a parcel of land by a man who claims to have leased it from Kenya Railways.

Jane Nanyeni, one of the over 100 affected residents, told The Standard they had been granted rights to use the land at the Lugari Railway Station by the State corporation starting April 2008.

“Kenya Railways leased the land as a way of taking care of its property. We paid a deposit of Sh10,000 for every three acres we leased. Each year, we were paying Sh5,000 per acre to till the land,” said Ms Nanyeni.

The woman said she had six acres under maize, which was destroyed by people allegedly hired by the new landowner, who has planted sugarcane on the property.

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Nanyeni, 53, said that in December last year, the new owner visited the station in the company of Western Region Railways Coordinator Sammy Kipsamo and told them that their leasehold had been terminated.

This was despite having paid a Sh5,000 fee in November for 2019 and prepared the land for a new planting season.

Notice to vacate

Peter Simiyu Wamula, 73, a former assistant chief, said his one-acre maize plantation that he had farmed since 2008 was also destroyed.

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“We were not given any notice to vacate the land as required in law. We were just told by word of mouth that they had terminated our leasehold yet our money was not refunded,” said Mr Wamula.

He claimed that residents were being threatened to stop them from pursuing the matter further.

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“Kenya Railways should do the honourable thing and refund us the deposit we paid when we started tilling the land and the lease fees for this planting season. They should also compensate us for crops destroyed when our contract was breached,” said Wamula.

Maureen Nekesa shed tears as she narrated how her three-acre maize farm was destroyed on June 12 by hired goons allegedly in company of police officers.

“I reported the matter to the Lugari Police Post, which was booked under OB/08/12/6/2019. But no action has been taken,” she said.

Robinson Musule, the new leaseholder, told The Standard on the phone that he had followed due process in acquiring the land.

“I paid Sh300,000 to Kenya Railways and leased the land for three years from 2019 to 2021. Then I planted sugarcane on it. The maize was uprooted as weeds when I was preparing the land to plant sugarcane. Those claiming I destroyed their crops are trespassers,” said Mr Musule.

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Musule said residents who claimed that he had threatened them should report the matter to the police because it was a serious offence.

When The Standard contacted the Kenya Railways official, Mr Kipsamo, he declined to comment.

“I know you were at the railway station yesterday. Just write what you found out,” he said on the phone.

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The StandardKenya RailwaysWestern Region Railways Coordinator