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Intrigues into National Youth Service land probe that sent EACC bosses packing

COUNTIES
By STANDARD ON SATURDAY TEAM | July 11th 2015

Persistent infighting and protection of powerful individuals, in government and the Opposition, implicated in land grabbing and corruption, led to the disintegration of the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC), The Standard on Saturday can authoritatively reveal.

Hours after Parliament resolved to send home the commission CEO Halakhe Waqo and his deputy Michael Mubea, it has emerged that investigation into a 5,000 acre parcel of land played a significant role in sealing their fate.

At the centre of the controversy is investigation into 5,000 acres of land in Yatta, Machakos County, belonging to the National Youth Service (NYS) that was allegedly grabbed by private developers.

Sources within the EACC secretariat disclosed persistent wrangles over the manner in which investigation into the parcel of land would be conducted. The investigation is said to implicate top politicians, a former top police officer and a top cleric.

EACC has been investigating the land grab for well over a decade now without any communication to the public on the status of the matter. Despite this, the case did not feature among those under investigation in a list submitted to President Uhuru Kenyatta a fortnight ago.

The Standard on Saturday established that there was consensus within Coalition for Reform’s and Democracy that given the stalemate in handling this case, among others, disbanding EACC was essential.

Illegal allocations

Similarly, United Republican Party MPs supported the sacking of the secretariat officials citing the “unfair treatment” of Cabinet Secretaries David Chirchir and Felix Koskei and Deputy President William Ruto’s Chief of Staff Marianne Kittany.

On July 7, only two days before the Motion on EACC went through in Parliament, Derik Muinde Kawinzi, had through the law firm of Ng’ang’a Nyaga & Company Advocates, written to the EACC asking why the commission had taken inordinately long to complete investigation into the 5,000-acre land.

Kawinzi accused EACC of shielding a former Vice President, MP and other powerful individuals from investigation into the illegal acquisition of the NYS land.

“There is a deliberate attempt at shielding powerful individuals against the return of irregularly acquired public land for personal gain,” reads the letter to EACC.

In February 2013, EACC wrote to the then Director General of NYS, Kiplimo Rugut, requesting for certified copies of the title deeds to the parcels of land from the sub-division of the 5,000 acres in order to finalise investigation into the alleged illegal allocations.

Last Thursday, Parliament passed the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Amendment Bill, 2015 with a clause introduced by Ruaraka MP Tom Kajwang’ (ODM) which, if assented to by the President, will automatically send home Waqo and Mubea.

According to government correspondence in our possession, NYS Yatta Field Unit land was allegedly grabbed by powerful individuals in the 1990s, but several government reports, including the 2003 Ndungu Commission of Inquiry into illegal allocation of public land, have since recommended that the allocations be revoked.

Originally, the land measured 10,000 acres. Land measuring 5,000 acres was subdivided into 61 individual titles, leaving NYS with the other 5,000 acres.

According to documents submitted to the EACC, the beneficiaries included a former Vice President who got 600 acres, a former Commissioner of Police (600 acres), a top cleric (347 acres) and a former Yatta MP (150 acres).

Horticultural activities

Our independent investigations indicate that extensive horticultural activities and cattle rearing are currently going on at the grabbed farms.
The Yatta Field Unit is one of the largest and oldest of the NYS units dating back to the 1960s. It undertakes both development and training activities based on crop and animal husbandry.

Long before private developers descended on it, the Yatta Field Unit befitted a lot from expert advice from the government of Israel on irrigation farming. It also acted as a demonstration centre to the neighbouring community.

It also has two schools, NYS School of Agriculture, which offers courses in agriculture from craft certificate level to diploma and NYS School of Plant Operators and Mechanics, which offers artisan and craft certificate courses in mechanics and plant operation.

“The two mentioned training institutions in the unit cannot be expanded and much of its practical work, especially in the field demonstrations have greatly been hampered due to lack of space for much of the land they used to stand on has been taken away,” reads a March 27, 2003 letter by NYS director J K Mwania to the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Home Affairs, Sylvester Mwaliko.

The Unit had also been earmarked for the training of street children, Mr Mwania noted, but given the man-made “scarcity of land, we are unable to carry out the plans.”

Government correspondence indicate that apart from the Yatta Field Unit, NYS has lost huge chunks of land in its camps in Nairobi, Mombasa, Kisumu, Nakuru and Eldoret.

Efforts to get a comment from EACC bore no fruit as its top officers were said to be held up in meetings discussing Thursday’s recommendation by Parliament to fire the Commission’s top bosses.

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Warders deserve better pay, decent housing
Reports that officers supposed to lead rehabilitation of convicted criminals are living in abject poverty and appalling conditions must gnaw at the heart of every Kenyan.

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