By JECKONIA OTIENO
Lamu, Kenya: A land row between two groups in Lamu seems to have no solution in sight as both groups have taken hardline position.
The row pits people who allegedly invaded the Witu-Nyongoro Ranch and the owners is pushing the two groups to the brink of a violent conflict like the one witnessed in the neighbouring Tana River County last year.
Notably, the very communities that have been fighting in the Tana Delta over resources are pitted against each other, this time in Lamu.
The problem started when a pastor allegedly started selling-off land to unsuspecting locals who are now caught in the crossfire.
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Attempts to evict the invaders has always resulted in a conflict between the Orma and the Pokomo communities.
A ranch official says a pastor has been at the centre of all illegal allocations and cites impunity as the main reason for the continued stay by the invaders.
According to the chairperson of the group, Abdullah Ijeme, the ranch started in 1971 and currently has a total of 200 shareholders. The shareholders are from different communities – Orma, Giriama, Kikuyu, and Swahili among others.
The total area of the disputed ranch is 32,000 hectares to which the ranch owners acquired a title deed towards the end of last year.
“Before we got the title deed on October 1, last year, we had an allotment letter which showed we legally owned the ranch,” states Ijema.
According to the title deed, the land whose registration number is CR 57750 pays an annual rent of Sh474,400, which is reversible; it also has a lease period of 45 years with effect from October 1, 2012.
The title deed shown to The Standard shows the ranch is a single entity with no subdivisions just yet.
The land reference number is 29274 while the land survey number is 342406, which as noted in the title deed is deposited at the Survey Records Office in Nairobi.
The ranch owners claim that 600 people are already illegally settled on the ranch and the most affected part is the grazing corridor.
But an amorphous group known as the Kaya Smoking Group is supporting the settlers. The group, it is said, has been reported to the police but no action has been taken.
Shikolo Boru, a former area councilor says the invaders have been angling for war, which the ranch owners are not so keen about because ‘we want peace.’
But Boru warns that the tolerance cannot go on forever because at some point people’s patience will snap.