Squatters invade Kilifi Cashewnut Factory farm and put up structures

Thousands of squatters have invaded a 150-acre farm once owned by the defunct Kilifi Cashewnut Factory in Kilifi town.

They ignored police threats and pleas from the county government and have begun to erect houses on the farm.

The county government has denounced the occupation that began on Saturday terming the move illegal while local police have vowed to punish those encroaching on private property.

Mkoroshoni Squatters Committee leader Hamisi Ali addresses members in Kilifi Town on Tuesday after they invaded a 150-acre farm. (PHOTO: JOSEPH MASHA/ STANDARD)

Yesterday’s invasion by squatters was led by their two leaders who were arrested on Sunday and freed on Monday for leading the occupation campaign.

These leaders will be charged today with illegal occupation, according to State officials in Kilifi town.

Kilifi Cashewnut Factory collapsed into debt in the early 1990s and its assets were sold to Millenium Investment Limited, a private firm. But Kilifi’s landless refuse to accept the takeover.

Yesterday, squatters descended on the farm at Mkoroshoni along the Kilifi-Malindi highway with tools and building materials and began to erect houses, vowing not to leave.

They were egged on by Squatter Committee Chairman Katana Kazungu and Organising Secretary Hamisi Ali who were freed on Monday on a Sh10,000 cash bond each following their arrest on the farm on Saturday.

The two officials said they will defy threats and warnings regarding the invasion.

“We were arrested on Saturday and later released on cash bail of Sh10,000 for each of us. But that will not hinder us from leading our people to take back our ancestral land,” said Mr Ali yesterday.

Police did not block the squatters or arrest anyone yesterday but there were fears the officers would evict them at nightfall.

Kilifi acting County Police Commander David Kerina said police would not allow squatters to invade privately owned land and vowed to mobilise officers to evict the squatters.

When The Standard visited the farm, the squatters were erecting houses and carving out plots for themselves.

“The police will not tolerate cases where residents invade private land and I am ordering those who have invaded the former Kilifi Cashewnut Factory land to vacate it immediately before security offices move in and kick them out of the land,” said Mr Kerina last evening.

And the Executive for Land in the Kilifi County government, John Mazuri, termed the invasion “as an illegal act,” adding that “those people should get out.”

Mazuri said the law forbids invasion and occupation of private land.

“I have been informed that some squatters have moved into the land of the collapsed Kilifi Cashewnut Factory and started allocating themselves some portions of land. But I term that invasion as illegal and I want those people to get out of the area,” said Mazuri.

But Ali claimed the new owners of the 150-acre farm only bought the factory and not the surrounding land. He argued that local residents hold legitimate ancestral claims to the property.

Kilifi County has witnessed many invasions of private land forcing the intervention of the National Land Commission.