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Waitiki now threatens court action over 'trespassing' in Likoni

COUNTIES
By Patrick Beja | August 18th 2015
Likoni residents follow the proceedings during one of the meetings at Waitiki Farm at Likoni in Mombasa. More than 120,000 people are settled in the farm. [PHOTO OMONDI ONYANGO/STANDARDS]

MOMBASA: The Office of the President has begun the process of settling thousands of squatters on the disputed 980-acre Waitiki Farm in Likoni.

However, the sub-division has run into new headwinds after its legal owner claimed he does not know who deployed dozens of surveyors and physical planners.

The team of 50 land officers from the Lands ministry, National Land Commission (NLC) and the county government are under instruction to finish work in 10 days starting Wednesday last week.

But Evans Waitiki appears to have been caught by surprise by what is going on his land.

"I am not aware of any Government officers surveying my land in Likoni and that amounts to trespass. It is inhumane and I hope the Government will inform me about it in the course of the week. In the meantime, I am going to consult my lawyer about the matter," Mr Waitiki said yesterday.

NLC and county government officials said the surveyors are mapping out the boundaries of the farm, while planners are using forms to pick out names of the squatters.

"Surveyors have until August 20 to finish. The Government is in negotiation with the landowner," said NLC Chairman Muhammad Swazuri told The Standard yesterday.

WASTE OF TIME

"The team of surveyors and physical planners was dispatched from Nairobi on Tuesday and we had a meeting with area residents and another meeting with the land officers on Wednesday when they embarked on the work. By last Friday, 7,000 households had been enumerated and names picked out," Mombasa Lands Executive Francis Thoya said.

However, Mr Thoya said the ongoing process would be a waste of time and resources if Waitiki has not been compensated.

"It would be an exercise in futility to survey and pick out occupants if the national government has not concluded the land acquisition exercise," said Thoya.

But Waitiki says negotiations over the sale or surrender of his expansive property stalled after Lands Cabinet Secretary Charity Ngilu was suspended in April over corruption claims. The Ethics and Anti Corruption Commission, however cleared Ms Ngilu of claims that she colluded with Waitiki to inflate the price of the land.

Dr Swazuri described the government activity on the farm as "a preliminary exercise" before title deeds could be issued after negotiations with Waitiki.

However, a reliable source at NLC yesterday told The Standard that the objective of the ongoing exercise was to expedite the resettlement of the squatters to ensure Uhuru issues a few of the title deeds when he opens the Mombasa International Agricultural Trade Affair.

During the 2013 presidential campaign, President Kenyatta pledged to settle the squatters who invaded the land in 1997 and have since erected palatial homes but this has not happened after disagreements over how much money Waitiki should be compensated and when.

COMPLETE ADJUDICATION

The Standard has since established that Uhuru ordered the Lands ministry to deploy surveyors and physical planners to the property to complete adjudication and issuance of title deeds to the over 100,000 squatters before the end of this month.

Sources at both NLC and the county government, however, said they were not aware whether Waitiki had been compensated.

 

"I read politics in the ongoing exercise although the county government has backed the Lands team from Nairobi," Thoya said.

Speaking in Nairobi Monday, Waitiki said the Government was yet to acquire his farm.

He, however, declined to disclose the amount of compensation that the Government had offered him, saying negotiations were complex.

Last year, the Government offered to pay him Sh2 billion for the prime land located close to the Indian Ocean but he declined leading to further negotiation.

An earlier report had indicated that the land was occupied by about 120,000 people who had fully developed it. The land has schools, churches, mosques, hospitals and a police station.

Compensation funds are expected to come from the cash-stripped Settlement Fund Trustee (SFT) and the Treasury.

Sources in Government told The Standard that the Jubilee government is keen to reach a settlement before Coalition for Reforms and Democracy leader Raila Odinga visits Coast next week. In February, Ngilu said the squatters would be settled for free but would cover the cost of surveying the land.

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