Taita Taveta County Security Committee has raised the red flag over rising cases of land conflicts in the region.
County Commissioner Rodah Onyancha said endless land conflicts, involving private land owners and residents, had become a major concern and a threat to security in the region.
The administrator, who is also the chair of the county security committee, said the issue has been compounded by “professional squatters” who get land and later sell it only to claim later they are landless.
Prospecting for land
“Professional squatters are prospecting for land everywhere. They acquire land and later sell it...,” said Ms Onyancha.
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Speaking at a public meeting at Mwatate Primary School yesterday, the administrator said Voi and Taveta sub-counties were the worst hit by land conflicts.
“In Voi and Taveta sub-counties, people are frequently invading private farms and claim ownership. Residents are also killing one another as a result of land conflicts. We will not allow residents to invade private farms and those found doing so will face the full force of the law,” she warned.
Her concerns come at a time dozens of leases of vast private farms are said to have expired.
Lands Executive Mwandawiro Mghanga, Assembly Lands Committee chairperson Chanzu Khamadi and National Land Commission County Coordinator Sylvester Osodo confirmed the expiry of the leases, but did not give the exact number of the ones that had expired.
“We have demanded a statement from the Executive on the number of farms whose leases have expired. The report we have is that the number is 10 but we want the Executive to give us the exact number to help us make a decision,” said Khamadi, who is also the Mata ward representative.
The matter came to the limelight recently after the county government announced it would not renew land leases for Machungwani Farm and Mkuki Ranch Limited Company whose leases expired in 2014 and January this year, respectively.
Machungwani Farm, with a total of about 3,000 acres and the 5000-acre Mkuki Ranch, have been invaded by thousands of squatters, illegal herders and miners and speculators who have subdivided and allocated themselves the parcels.
“We have to sit down and make a catalog of all the leases to know which ones have expired and which ones have not. The problem is that we do not have the reference here because the custodian of this information is the Mombasa Registry offices,” said Osodo.