DP William Ruto's grand plan to resettle landless at Coast

Deputy President William Ruto and Kilifi Governor Amason Kingi (doing press-ups) during the Kenya Kwanza rally at Msabaha grounds in Kilifi County on May 26, 2022. [Kelvin Karani, Standard]

Deputy President William Ruto’s radical plan to buy off large swathes of land and to compulsorily acquire idle parcels to the benefit of landless people has jolted Coast politics.

In his bid to lock a big chunk of the region’s 1.8 million votes, Dr Ruto has inked a land deal with area leaders and set out to popularise it. Yesterday, Dr Ruto said he will reintroduce the 1963 “one-million-acre scheme” as well as the “Africanisation policy” to entice absentee landlords to relinquish their land to settle squatters.

The DP warned that the State will not hesitate to use the compulsory acquisition method if absentee landlords refuse to sell the land so he can resettle the landless at the Coast.

“We will establish a special fund to buy the land from absentee landlords. But if the need arises, we will use compulsory acquisition programme to repossess the land and settle squatters in Coast. We are ready,” said Dr Ruto.

The DP said the decision to use the 1963 policy was agreed upon by Coast leaders and was captured in the political pact signed and deposited with the Registrar of Political Parties.

Dr Ruto, who started his tour of the Coast on Tuesday, ignited the debate about land after he revealed that he was gifted 2,500 acres by former Taveta MP Basil Criticos. Ownership of 2,500 acres puts him among the big landowners in the area.

Yesterday, ODM leader Raila Odinga’s allies challenged Dr Ruto to lead the way by giving out part of the huge tract of land to the squatters and the landless. Suna East MP Junet Mohammed and ODM secretary general Edwin Sifuna told Dr Ruto to mind the underprivileged and landless of the Coast if he believes in his economic model.

The pair were speaking in Vihiga county on the day Raila started his five-day tour of the Western region.

Mr Sifuna said it is hard to understand how Criticos allocated DP Ruto 2,500 acres in Taita Taveta yet many squatters were living on the same land. Land is an emotive issue and Raila’s allies appear determined to use it against Ruto. “I am surprised that some people claim to be ready to help those at the bottom yet they have over 2,500 acres of land which they can give to those who don’t have anything,” said Mr Junet.

Mr Sifuna questioned why the former MP did not give out part of the land to squatters living on it. Raila steered clear of the issue, and focused on popularising his manifesto and agenda. 

In Mombasa, Dr Ruto continued to sell his land agenda and at a rally in Kilifi, he said the Jubilee administration issued over 300,000 title deeds in Coast. Dr Ruto was accompanied by governors Amason Kingi of Kilifi, Salim Mvurya of Kwale, Alfred Mutua of Machakos, Tharaka Nithi senator Kithure Kindiki and Gatundu South MP Moses Kuria.

Mr Kingi said since independence, the Coast has had several ministers in charge of the lands docket but were unable to solve the squatter problems due to lack of goodwill from the State. 

“We had Darius Mbela, Eliud Mwamunga and Noah Katana Ngala and they were unable to address the land problem,” Kingi said.

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