500 youth invade Kilifi sisal farm, claim land belongs to ancestors

Sisal plantation at Vipingo in Kilifi County. [Omondi Onyango, Standard]

Hundreds of machete-wielding youths invaded part of the Vipingo Sisal farm in Kilifi County.

They annexed a section of the farm and put up houses in the wee hours of Good Friday.

Kilifi South police commander George Madoli said the youth numbering about 500 invaded the expansive sisal plantation along the Mombasa-Malindi Highway claiming ancestral ownership of the land.

He said the intruders produced copies of title deeds which they alleged show the land that was leased by Vipingo Sisal Estate belonged to their forefathers.  According to them, the lease had expired.

In a phone interview, Mr Mrima Wanyepe who claimed to be the chairman of the landless in the area said the 800-acre disputed land was supposed to be distributed at the beginning of this year.

''Vipingo Sisal Estate lease expired and we applied to have our ancestral land reverted back, we obtained the title deed for 800 acres of the land from the Ministry of Lands which was supposed to divide it for us,” he said.

A copy of the certificate of title deed shows the document was issued on December 13 last year. The Standard could not, however, independently establish the authenticity of the document.

But Wanyepe claimed the county government of Kilifi was supposed to facilitate the adjudication and subdivision of the 800 acres for the squatters. “But it has been postponing the exercise,” he said.

The police said it was not possible for them to tell the genuine title deeds produced by the squatters and the investor yesterday.

“The youth have invaded the sisal farms in Vipingo claiming ownership. The security team wants to engage lawyers representing both parties and they have agreed we meet later to discuss and resolve the issue amicably.

Mr Madoli said they had established that the warring parties met at the office of the County Commissioner of Kilifi last Tuesday but failed to agree on who between the investor and the locals owns the land.

“Yes, we met at the County Commissioner’s office. We have a mother title deed as members of the Bambani association, we do not know who else has a title to the same land,” said Wanyepe.

He said some 500,000 people have for years lived as squatters around the Vipingo Sisal plantation. The villagers are also in court seeking an extra 3,900 acres of the sisal plantation.

In January, Justice Millicent Odeny ruled that a title deed held by the villagers for the 3,900-acre land was illegal, dealing a blow to the squatters who claimed the land belonged to their ancestors.

Justice Odeny said that the title acquired by the Bambani and Kikandale community in July 2020 was superimposed on another held by the NSE-listed Vipingo Development Ltd.

The locals had sought the court’s affirmation to be declared the registered owners of the property measuring about 3,911 acres. Yesterday Wanyepe said they have appealed the matter.

Joshua Kenga, one of the squatters said the sisal farm is their ancestral land and that they will not relent until they get it.

On Thursday, President William Ruto promised to end the squatter problem at the Coast. He said the State had set aside Sh2 billion for buying land from absentee landlords where squatters will be settled.