No more courts, landowners and squatters now go for mediation

A section of residents in Madzimbani-Matangoni settlement scheme, Mariakani in Kilifi County protesting over land row with a private developer. [Robert Menza, Standard]

Landowners and squatters in Kilifi County have resorted to Alternative Dispute Resolution Mechanisms (ADRM) to resolve decades-long land disputes mediated by the area government.

Landowners agreed to the mediation process claim that the time spent in court has deprived them of a chance of any meaningful business on their land. Squatters have complained of delayed justice and interference by politicians and wealthy investors with interests in the disputed property.

Currently, 300 land cases are being handled through ADRM. For instance, the Mariakani- Mitagoni and the Kadzuhoni land tussles in Kaloleni and Magarini Sub Counties respectively are some of those listed under ADRM.

Mr Hinzano Ngala, one of the descendants of the Mzee Tsangwa Mumba Chome Ngala family that the court awarded at least 7,000 acres at Mariakani Mitagoni said the dispute has been complicated by politicians who incite squatters not to accept court decisions. More than 35,000 squatters have settled on the disputed property.

"We have noticed that some squatters sold parts of the land to private developers. Others came from as far as Kwale County to cause chaos in order to sell the land to investors. Only the genuine squatters will be catered for in the land settlement since we have consent from our late father Mzee Tsangwa Mumba Chome Ngala to set aside 1,000 acres to settle all the genuine squatters," he said.

Bishop Dr Anthony Kenga Charo of the Pentecostal Assemblies Church, speaking on behalf of squatters on the disputed land, said that some of the squatters who are not genuine in their cause are being hired by investors who want to grab the land. In the Mariakani case, the county government through the County Attorney Bibi Fondo appealed a High Court order of 2018 that granted the owner of the land powers to evict squatters hence preventing possible violence.

The suspension order was followed by granted prayers that the status quo prevailing in respect of land parcel Kilifi/Madzimbani/Mitangoni/B/1 measuring 2,861 Hectares or thereabouts be maintained, pending the hearing and determination of the intended appeals arising from the said judgment.

“During the course of this appeal, the family of Mzee Tsangwa Mumba Chome appealed to the County government of Kilifi to lead in bringing the disputants and the community to the table for an out-of-court settlement in line with Article 159 of the Constitution since the dispute spans over 40 years,” Mrs Fondo said.

She added that the family of Mzee Tsangwa Mumba Chome is willing to excise some land for the parties to be settled in line with the judgment of the Environment and Land Court in Malindi that advised the National Land Commission (NLC) to settle the squatters either on the same land or another one. The county government has been the trustee of the land after inheriting the same from the defunct Town Council of Mariakani.

Land and Physical Planning Executive Maureen Mwangovya said the county government had initiated negotiation between landowners and squatters on several parcels of the disputed land.

“We have several options for a win-win at the Mariakani Mitagoni and the Kadzuhoni lands,” she said.

Ganda Ward MCA Reuben Katana in whose area there are many land disputes said all cases arise from absentee landlords. Kibarani Ward MCA John Mwamutsi called on the County government and NLC to expedite the negotiation process so that squatters can be settled before August 9 so that it does not become a campaign issue.

The National Land Commission has been camping in Malindi and Watamu in a bid to settle the controversial Chembe Kibabamche land tussle that has lasted for almost four decades. Mr Maurice Dzagamba, a squatter on plot 151 said he was forcefully evicted from the land three years ago forcing him to seek alternative shelter in a rental house to date. He had lived on the disputed land for more than 20 years and had even constructed two permanent houses which were demolished.

“The land was a forest with no activity but wild animals and since many of us had no land we invaded, cleared and started residing in the area only for people that we have never met or seen started claiming ownership,” he said.

Commissioner Guku said that the scheme started as an adjudication process from 1974 to 1978 and people were issued with titles under the Registered Land Act (RLA) but they were told to return the titles because the land was to be declared government land.

The NLC started its hearings on the disputed Chembe Kibabamche settlement scheme in 2015 which has a total of 440 plots. 334 plots have been cleared while 104 are pending and two were revoked.

In an effort to streamline the dispute resolution process, the commission has partnered with the Judiciary to ensure that cases are promptly handled to avoid conflicting resolutions.

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