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Exposed: Illegal allocation and invasion of Mavoko land

 Demolitions at a controversial land that belongs to the East African Portland Cement Company in Athi River on October 16, 2023. [Peterson Githaiga, Standard]

Joy and excitement collide with anguish and despair for most property owners in Mavoko, Machakos County.

Demand for land and the desire to own a home consumes every hardworking Kenyan's cash, and Mavoko, which borders Nairobi offers lucrative prospects for such.

With vast unoccupied land, the area has become a playing field for unscrupulous property agents who target unsuspecting Kenyans.

Demolition of homes, churches, schools and business premises after the court ruled that East African Portland Cement Company (EAPCC) was the legitimate owner of the 12,000-acre land in Athi River, has left families in anguish after they were rendered homeless.

The demolitions on the over 4,000 acres of land LR N0. 10424 began after High Court Judge A Nyukuri, sitting at Machakos Environment and Land Court declared EAPCC the legitimate owner of the disputed piece.

The 4000-acre land is part of the 12,000 acres that East African Portland owns as wasteland after mining.

The Standard has accessed an explosive report of the Taskforce on Ministry of State for Provincial Administration and Internal Security regarding insecurity in Athi River that lays bare the beginning of the land mess in the area and the birth of Ngwata (Kamba word to denote self-land acquisition).

In a three-part story, the writer looks at the genesis of the land dispute in Mavoko.

The task force was mandated to examine and inquire into the allocations of land to private individuals or corporations, which was dedicated or reserved for public purposes including Jumbo (Airport) land, Numerical Machines Complex and EAPCC.

Others were National Housing Corporation and Agriculture Syndicate land, National Social Security Fund (NSSF) land, public land around Daystar University and the late Margaret Wamaitha Humprey's.

Most of the land in the Athi River District was purely agricultural and was owned by white settlers in the form of cattle ranches, sisal estates and cereal farms.

Among the cattle ranches included the Beacon Ranch, Lukenya Ranch and the Ngelani Farm. The sisal estates included Katani and Lukenya-Kinanie. The Syokimau farm was famous for cereal.

After independence, some of the land held by the white settlers was purchased by private individuals and land-buying companies while others reverted back to the State. Locals were advised to organise themselves and form cooperative societies that would then be allocated parcels of land upon the payment of a prescribed fee.

Several local co-operative societies were formed: Katani-Mitaboni, Syokimau, Drumvale, Lukenya and Ngelani Co-operative Societies among others.

Upon acquiring the lands, the co-operative societies then subdivided it amongst their shareholders who were later issued with freehold title deeds.

The co-operative societies also set aside land for public utilities such as schools, health facilities, administrative centres, recreational centres, churches and access roads.

Ngwata, according to the report, was first noticed on the parcel of land situated in Mlolongo between the old Mombasa Road and the Syokimau Stream, an area that had been planned for quarry plots and allocated to business persons involved in quarrying activities after they exhausted their mining operations in Kayole, Nairobi.

The "Report on the Land Scandal in Athi River" released in 2011, was triggered by complaints to the Ministry of State for Provincial Administration and Internal Security regarding insecurity in Athi River largely attributed to land conflicts in 2009 and 2010.

According to the Ministry of State for Provincial Administration and Internal Security, the complaints primarily related to outright invasion of public and private lands by individuals, "who are not genuine squatters but rather organised groups in a well calculated move to, take possession, subdivide and sell the land to unsuspecting Kenyans at astronomical prices."

And also the disposal of institutional land for various reasons without offering locals an opportunity to buy targeted private developers who put up elaborate residential and commercial estates.

In August 2011, the government stopped all land transactions in the wider Athi River, which falls under the Mavoko Municipal Council to investigate fraudulent land deals.

Then Internal Security Permanent Secretary Francis Kimemia declared that the ban would remain in place until the task force examining land deals in the area completes its work.

Then Nairobi Metropolitan Development Minister Njeru Githae claimed that the fraudulent land deals had been feeding organised criminal gangs in the municipality who compete to grab public and private land and sell it to unsuspecting Kenyans.

East African Portland Cement

According to the task force report, EAPCC held 13,000 acres, which was jointly owned by the government at 25 per cent, NSSF (27 per cent), NAVAL (LARGAGE) (42 per cent) and the public (6 per cent).

During their findings, they noted that the land parcel (LR.NO. Acreage (Acres) Status 7815/1 2095, 8784/4 1332, 8786 745, 10424 4298 and all totalling 12,782.6 had been invaded by illegal trespassers and who were undertaking illegal sub-division and only 8785 - parcels sold and a modern housing estate is fully developed.

The task force noted that the parcels exclude the areas covered by the office blocks, manufacturing plant and residential area. On parcel LR. No. 10424, there is a road reserve totalling 41 acres.

"The task force visited parcel LR. No. 10425, and found a group calling itself Kenya National Organisation of Victims of Ethnic Clashes (KNOVEC) sub-dividing among its 900 members out of whom 300 have been allegedly resettled," reads the report.

It noted that EAPCC had challenged the illegal invasion in the High Court at Machakos HCCC No.93 of 2009 and obtained a court order restraining any person from interfering with the land and maintaining the status quo.

"EAPCC informed this task force that the police are investigating an account with Sh62 million opened by some leaders of the land speculators with a name disguising as East African Portland Cement Company."

The task force report shows that EAPCC has offered to sell LR No. 8784/4 with priority to the locals and company staff provided they organise themselves in groups through the participation of local leaders but recommended that illegal trespassers be evicted without any further delay.

It called on EAPCC to consider securing their land.

National Housing Corporation

NHC's initial allocation was 80 hectares on July 2, 1994, Ref. No. 39711/XX/III with a Deed Plan Parcel 1- LR. No. 25298.

When the survey was done, it was realised that some parts had been excised. The balance of 33.16 hectares was issued with a fresh letter of allotment Ref. No. 397711/XX/II dated April 23, 1999, by the Commissioner of Lands.

NHC made a part payment of Sh558,940 as a stand premium. However, it was realised that part of the land had been allocated by the Commissioner of Lands to a private developer leaving NHC with 12.57 hectares.

The Commissioner of Lands further issued a fresh allocation on 6/9/2005 Ref. No. 206313/22 on September 9, 2005. NHC paid the Commissioner of Lands Sh330,040 but while processing the allotment letter, it was further realised that LR No. 25298 had another letter of allotment issued to a private developer hence the processing of title of ownership to NHC was stopped.

To date, the Ministry of Lands is still investigating the double allocation of the land. Notably, NHC does not own any land as of now but continued paying Sh888,980 to the Commissioner of Lands who issued the same land to private developers.

"The Commissioner of Lands is responsible for the double allocations. The Commissioner of Lands collected quite a substantial amount of money while knowing very well that the same parcel of land had been allocated to private developer(s)," read the report.

The task force indicated that the Commissioner of Lands had a responsibility to resolve the ownership dispute and expedite the issuance of the title to NHC to enable the corporation to undertake the desired housing development. In parcel two, NHC bought land from Agriculture Syndicate Ltd and NHC- LR No. 10426/81 IR 126719 (155 Acres) at a cost of Sh822 which was paid in two instalments

However, during the processing of the title from Agriculture Syndicate Ltd to NHC, they realised that the same parcel was being claimed by other parties including locals with no documents available, and a group of Maasais also with no documents.

Kibwezi Mining (2002) Company Ltd have a copy of title LR. No. 10426/81 IR 143032 measuring 60.56 hectares and Richard Mwalili Mulu and Joseph Mwalili having a certificate of title LR No. 10426/29/3 and IR 105259 measuring 157.5 hectares. The task force advised NHC to complete payment of the balance amounting to Sh272 million in order to expedite the process of ownership of the said parcel of land.

National Social Security Fund (NSSF)

In total, NSSF owns 1,371.62 Acres within the Athi River District which the Board of Trustees had earmarked about 50-80 acres for disposal through a local leadership-stakeholder process.

A total of 1,010.3 Acres had been earmarked for Public- Private Partnership (PPP) development as per their international tenders of No. 05/2010-2011 which invited expression of interest (EOI) for joint venture development.

The intended development would include a modern city comprising of between 20,000 to 30,000 housing units of various categories offering the necessary public amenities like security structures, schools, hospitals, shopping complexes and recreation facilities, modern transport infrastructure (public railway and road network) among others.

The remaining 200 acres would be redeveloped later. The task force found that the invasion or encroachment on NSSF land is two-fold.

However, about 577.2 acres of parcels earmarked for PPP specifically LR. No. 24578 in the Katani had illegal beacons erected on it and the same is being sold to unsuspecting third parties.

On the remaining land, NSSF accused the Municipal Council of Mavoko of aiding and abetting the dumping of soil by construction companies that have no specific dump site for their excavation works.

NSSF further claimed that the people who dumped the soil engaged the services of youth with the intent of scaring away staff and security. The youths further collected a fee from the vehicles dumping the soil.

The task force recommended that the government offer security to NSSF to clearly identify and put permanent marks on their parcels of land using cost-effective measures preferably by the digging of trenches.

It also advised NSSF to erect billboards identifying their land for the purpose of deterring speculators and invaders from interfering with their land and as a way of creating awareness to the members of the public.

Kenya Airports Authority (KAA)

A grant was issued for LR No. 21919 measuring 4,674.6 Hectares (Ha) on 1/8/1996. However, there was a variance in the area surveyed and that which was reserved for the development of the airport.

In 2002, a re-survey was done by the Director of Surveys to correct the variance and subsequently KAA surrendered the title for LR No. 21919 was issued with a new grant for LR No. 24937 measuring 4,398.7 Ha giving a variance of 275.9 hectares.

Out of the 1600 acres of illegally acquired land, 400 acres which had been taken by Mlolongo Brothers (LR. No.14231) and Uungani Settlement Scheme Self Help Group (LR No. 13512) were taken back after the demolition in 2011.

Sheep and Goat/Kenya Meat Commission

The KMC/sheep and goat project is owned by LR. No. 10029/2 measuring 2,912 acres. The land is used for livestock breeding and diversification including introduction of quails and guinea fowls for breeding.

It noted that the project is however unable to fully utilise the land because of illegal occupation by squatters, illegal grazing and cultivation by trespassers, unauthorised quarry operations on the land numbering to ten (10), land grabbing through political incitement and vandalism of the sheep and goats project equipment and property.

The task force found that the land which was critical for their continued operation i.e. livestock holding was legally owned by KMC through the sheep and goat project.

The report recommended squatters should be evicted and the land properly secured given that the land grabbing menace is allowed to continue unchecked, it will jeopardise the sheep and goat project.

Meat Training Institute

This institute is situated at the heart of Athi River Town and owns land LR No. 337 zone 5/3 Athi River measuring 86.5 Acres. However, the task force learned that part of the institute's parcel of land has been excised by the Commissioner of Lands and directly allocated to the following Mathew Musyimi Nzuve (7.9 Acres), Ms Malu O. S. Ltd(9.8 Acres) and A Mr. Muthengi (9.8 Acres).

The then Permanent Secretary, the Ministry of Livestock had put a caveat and the taskforce recommended that the allocation be revoked and the land reverted to the Meat Training Institute.

Numerical Machining Complex

The ownership of the Numerical Machining Complex (NMC) is composed of Kenya Railways at 51 per cent and the University of Nairobi at 49 per cent. According to the report, in 1992, the government allocated to NMC parcel number LR .11895/20, IR No. 63767 land totalling 1,700 acres for developing an industrial park.

In 2001, NMC hived out 500 acres for disposal to offset an outstanding debt amounting to Sh78 million with a cabinet memo authorising the sale.

The task force report noted that out of the 500 acres, 470 acres were sold out to individuals and private companies and have since been developed.

However, 30 acres are illegally invaded by illegal land speculators, therefore, the company has not been able to provide vacant possession to the buyer. The land is being claimed by Naritoi Agency and Benrose Agency with both firms in possession of titles with the same LR number but different IR numbers.

"The remaining 1,200 acres of land have since been invaded, by some 17 self-help groups among them Mavemba and others," read the report.

NMC moved to Machakos High Court vide HCCC No. 252 of 2010 and obtained a restraining order dated December 22, 2010 against the invaders. This order has not been enforced.

It noted that some records captured show that members of the Mavemba Self Help Group were paying Sh400,000 per plot to their officials and issued with a share certificate upon payment for a land that was earmarked for the construction of a steel mill complex towards.

It urged that the officials of the self-help groups and land-buying companies involved should be investigated, arrested and prosecuted for swindling unsuspecting members of the public.

[email protected]

Photos by Peterson Githaiga.

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