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33 arrested and houses burnt as police evict squatters from land

Squatters ponder their next move after they were evicted from their 'ancestral' land in Kilifi South. [PHOTO: GIDEON MAUNDU/STANDARD]

More than 33 were arrested and 250 structures burnt in a violent eviction of squatters in Kisauni.

This comes barely a fortnight after a man was shot in the leg and a woman beaten senseless when police clashed with more than 300 squatters on a disputed 60-acre Nguu Tatu land in the area.

On Sunday, 527 families (1,500 people) were ejected from the 132-acre plot at Lamkani in Bamburi, Kisauni alleged to be owned by private developers.

“Some 33 squatters were arrested and released on a police bond pending prosecution for encroaching on a private property,” said  Nguma Charo, the chairman of Lamkani squatters.

Mr Charo said they claim ancestral ownership of the parcel and questioned the authenticity of the title deeds issued to a private developer who has since sold the parcel to other investors.

According to court documents, Ms Njeri Njenga Kagiri claims ownership of the entire land, which she claimed to have inherited from her late husband Jeremiah Nyaga in 1979.

HALT EVICTIONS

The evictions have sparked anger and protest from Mijikenda elders alleging a conspiracy to stop squatters from registering as voters and render them illegible to vote in the August 8 election.

Mijikenda Council of Elders Association secretary general Vincent Mwachiro called on the National Government to halt the evictions across the Coast region.

“We suspect some local political leaders who are scared of the squatters’ votes are behind these displacements. They are scared of informed squatters registering as voters,” said Mwachiro.

He said the crusade dubbed ‘Ardhi Kwanza’, a squatters’ movement against Mombasa leaders opposed to issuance of titles by the national government, had created panic among leaders.

‘Ardhi Kwanza’ is a movement to sensitise squatters to put to task their MPs, members of county assembly and governors to show them efforts they have taken to settle the landless.

According to the proponents of the movement, it also urges squatters to register as voters in the ongoing mass registration exercise.

“Five years ago we elected leaders who undertook to do everything to solve the squatter problem. All we have seen is partisan politics and efforts to frustrate the Government from issuing title deeds,” said Mzee Thomas Mwangeka, another Mijikenda elder.

On Sunday, Mwachiro and the other nine Mijikenda elders met 1,500 squatters of Ugatuzi, Lamkani and Barawa land parcels at Zum Zum area in Kisauni and demanded that evictions stop.

Meanwhile, over a dozen families were left homeless after a group of hired youths backed by armed police descended on structures on a plot near the beach in Kanamai, Kilifi County on Sunday.

The now homeless villagers claimed a local investor dealing in limestone excavation was using police to evict them in order to mine construction materials from the land.

The villagers of Mwendo wa Panya village told The Standard that one person was injured during the demolition.

“Police took cover as the youth demolished our homes. They were completely razed. It was an unexpected ambush,” Bidala Swaleh, a spokesperson, said.

The raid took place at dawn and just a week after another disputed land in Kanamai was literally turned into a battlefield between squatters and police.

Police opened fire and two people were shot. Police denied using excessive force.

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