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Lands Commission halts eviction of squatters from disputed land

COAST
By BY BENARD SANGA | November 13th 2013
NLC Chairman Dr Muhammad Swazuri and Lands cabinet secretary Charity Ngilu

BY BENARD SANGA

MOMBASA, KENYA: The National Land Commission (NLC) has stopped further evictions of squatters from land that is at the centre of a dispute between locals and a private developer in Kisauni, Mombasa.

NLC Chairman Dr Muhammad Swazuri has also asked the residents to stop expanding occupation on the land situated in Lamukani, Bamburi, to give room for negotiation.

The 527 families have been embroiled in a dispute with the developer over ownership of the 135 acres since 2010. Police have in the past allegedly shot at and injured them.

The developer, Gladys Njeri Njena Kagiri, claimed ownership of the land by virtue of possessing land titles while the families said they have lived on it since 1923.

“In line with the Constitution, all Kenyans need to live in harmony with each other without loss of property or even lives.

“The Lamukani residents are claiming occupation of the said land, while you (developer) are claiming ownership,” said Dr Swazuri in a letter to the developer dated October 31.

In 2010, administration officers moved to evict the families, burning down and flattening houses in a fight that saw several people injured. During the eviction, which the families had termed illegal because they had not been served with eviction orders, a group of youths descended on the settlers and injured ten people.

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Forceful eviction

“We have lived in the area peacefully until March 2010 when Administration Police and a group of youths attacked us, burning down our houses and demanding that we leave because the land, which our ancestors have lived on since 1923, belonged to a certain developer,” said Nguma Charo Chego, the families’ spokesman.

The families moved to court seeking to be declared legal owners of the land and the court granted temporary orders restraining the developer from pursuing any dealings on the land.

According to court documentsthat The Standard has seen, in August 2010, the court ordered that the families be reinstated but the local administrators evicted them again.

The action sparked demonstrations in Mombasa that were led by Kaya elders who demanded the arrest and prosecution of the police and the then Kisauni district commissioner.

But the families’ lawyer later entered into an agreement with the developer’s counsel, which some of the families disapproved of. In the consent, the families allegedly agreed to move after apparently agreeing that it did not belong to them.

They have since filed a complaint against their lawyer with the Law Society of Kenya’s Complaints Commission, demanding the over Sh1.8 million they paid him as legal fees.

In a letter sent to the developer, Swazuri said the long-standing dispute had caused disharmony in the area hence the need for the commission to intervene.

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