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Shifta IDPs threaten to sue Kenyan government over ancestral land

By Patrick Beja | May 1st 2016
NLC chairman Muhammad Swazuri

More than 6,000 Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in Lamu have threatened to sue the government after their attempts to return to 65,000 acres of alleged ancestral land hit a snag.

The IDPs, who claim to have been displaced by the Shifta war in 1967, say their push to get back their land in Msanga village in Mpeketoni have been frustrated by the government.

Msanga Community Group Chairman Bakari Bintauzi and Secretary Salim Kidala said they will take their fight to the courts after talks with the National Land Commission (NLC) collapsed.

The two said a commissioner with NLC has advised them to pursue the matter through the courts. “We have been given a letter advising us to pursue the matter through the courts. We are preparing file a suit at the Malindi High Court,” said Kidala.

NLC chairman Muhammad Swazuri had recently said the commission will tour the Msanga land to investigate the matter, but the community leaders said the matter had reached a gridlock. In November 2 last year, Prof Swazuri wrote to the Amu ranch management informing them of the claims by the Msanga community.

“Please study their claim and give us your views,” said Swazuri in the letter. On Thursday, Mr Bintauzi said residents fled the land after successive raids by both shifta militia and government security forces. The government, he said, accused them of providing food to the bandits.

He said the area was originally occupied by members of the Bajuni, Boni, Giriama, Sanye, Pokomo and Orma who he claimed became Kenya’s first IDPs.  A report filed by the Lamu District Surveyor in 2012 confirmed that Msanga area existed in the topocadastral map series of 1981.

“Historically, it’s their ancestral land which they left as a result of insecurity. The people are scattered along other existing villages of Mkunumbi, Ndambwe and Mapenya as displaced people,” said the report. The Lamu surveyor had been instructed to investigate the matter by then Lands Cabinet Minister James Orengo in July 2012 following mass eviction of squatters in Msanga.

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