Blow to tenants as NLC rejects historical land injustice claim

Mombasa residents lend their ears  during hearing of historical land injustices by National Land Commission at Bandari Maritime Academy in Mombasa. March 19,2024. [Omondi Onyango,Standard]

Panic has gripped thousands of Mombasa residents who have built houses on rented land after the National Lands Commission (NLC) rejected their claim of being victims of historical land injustice.

More than 10,000 Mombasa residents have built houses on land belonging to the descendants of former Coast rulers on what is referred to as tenants at will. The tenants pay rent for the land.

Several landlords whose ancestors were allocated the land for free by the Sultanate of Zanzibar along the 10-mile coastal strip before British colonial rule have put their land on sale.

This is after they rejected valuation by the NLC which set the plots value at between Sh400,000 and Sh500,000. They want to sell the plots at between Sh4 million and Sh9 million.

Yesterday, the tenants wanted the NLC to classify their case as one of the many historical land injustices at the Coast to enable them to benefit from the government’s resettlement plan.

However, their claim was rejected by the NLC committee on the inquiry into land historical injustice during a meeting in Mombasa to investigate land injustice claims  by the residents.

Addressing the residents at Bandari Academy in Mombasa, National Land Historical Injustice Committee chairman James Tuitoek said their claims were not classified as historical injustice.

Prof Tuitoek instead advised the claimants to approach a lands dispute tribunal.

He acknowledged that the residents have been having problems with their landlords but their cases can be addressed by Environment and Land Court and Land Dispute Tribunals.

The commissioner said the complaint in question was unique and was only found in Mombasa, Kwale, Kilifi and Lamu where landlords rent land to willing tenants who pay ground rent after building a house.

Most victims are from the Miji Kenda community who despite being the indigenous have lived on such land for centuries and are considered squatters.

Abdullahi Farah Haji who has a house at Mwembe Kuku on the island on plot 219 claimed that most of the victims are living in fear of their houses being auctioned by the landlords.

He lamented that they are now being forced to part with a lot of money after landlords hiked rent.

“We have presented our case before the commission and expect a favorable answer to end this problem we have been facing since independence,” said Haji.

However, lawyer Tom Aziz who represented one of the landlords in Kisauni insisted that the claimants had no legal rights over any plot they had rented and built a house.

He said the tenants will live on such land on condition that they pay land rent per month and failure to do so the landlord has a right to auction their houses. 

Last week Mombasa Governor Abdulswamad Nassir said the county was planning to enter into an agreement with such landlords and buy the land to settle the victims.

Nassir said time had come for residents who had rented such land and built houses to be allocated the plots in question so that they can develop them.

The victims said they should be allocated the plots and be issued with title deeds.