Samboja issues 1,500 title deeds to squatters, vows to repossess ranch

Governor Granton Samboja (right) presents a title deed at Madambhogo settlement scheme in Taita-Taveta County. [Maarufu Mohamed, Standard]

Governor Granton Samboja has vowed to repossess the vast 5,000-acre Mkuki ranch from powerful persons.

He noted that the lease expired in 2020 but a group of people among them two MPs took over and registered it as Mkuki ranch.

Records from the Companies Registry in Nairobi shows that Voi Jones Mlolwa and another MP in the county were registered shareholders of the ranch with each owning 10 nominal share capital in the estate.

But Mr Mlolwa yesterday denied the governor’s claims that he was part of the group that had grabbed the land.

He said he was approached to be a shareholder of the disputed land because its lease had expired.

“I bought shares because we were trying to protect the land from being grabbed by non-indigenous persons. I later resigned from the company. I was a registered shareholder but I am no longer there now,” said Mlolwa.

Records show that there are 66 individuals including the family of the former landowner Brigadier Cromwel Mkungusi who acquired the land in 1975. The lease expired in January 2020.

“I will continue fighting to revert the land back to the local community,” warned Samboja yesterday.

The governor issued the warning at Manoa trading centre in Mwatate Sub County when he issued over 1,500 title deeds to the squatters living in Mwachabo settlement scheme.

“The land belongs to you and I will not allow a few individuals to take over the Mkuki ranch land, which belongs to you,” Samboja said.

He said his administration had earlier petitioned the Ministry of Lands and the National Land Commission (NLC) not to renew the land lease.

“We have opposed the lease extension through an application to the Ministry of Lands and the NLC. The county assembly also resolved that the disputed land be reverted back to the county government in trust for the local community,” he stated.

He noted that the Community Land Act provides for the inclusion of private ranches and is anchored in Section 25 of the Act, which talks about the conversion of private land to the community.

The section states private land may be converted to community land by transfer; or surrender; other options include operation of the law in relation to illegally acquired community land; or operation of any other written law, said the governor.

Samboja said the current status of the land has hampered the area’s development plans as there were no ranching businesses that had been creating jobs for the locals are not going on. As the local residents and the county government demand the land back, the estate Company Secretary Mr Victor Were said they have expressed a desire to renew the company lease despite opposition from the county leadership.

“This is a limited company incorporated in the company laws of Kenya and nobody can deny it from getting the consent to continue with its operations. Survivors of the original owners, should not be disinherited,”  he said.