Mombasa leaders and the National Land Commission (NLC) yesterday reached a tentative deal likely to end a protracted land compensation dispute that was threatening to stall the construction of a section of the Standard Gauge Railway project.
The deal will see the resumption of the project that was halted last month after county leaders led by Governor Hassan Ali Joho asked squatters not to leave the land on an eight-kilometre stretch until they get compensation.
The agreement was arrived at after a tense four-hour meeting attended by Governor Joho, NLC Chairman Muhammad Swazuri, Changamwe MP Omar Mwinyi and Kenya Railways Managing Director Atanas Maina.
The land commission agreed to carry out fresh review of the amount to be paid to persons on the SGR route. During the meeting, the county administration gave the green light for the contractor to move to the site "immediately".
Those affected will be issued with new forms to fill and the Government is expected to release the payouts after July 20. The landowners were asked to allow work to continue on idle land as their compensation is processed.
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Dr Swazuri said those demanding compensation include 1,800 squatters, 73 land owners and 1,600 fishermen.
He said the commission had initially set aside Sh3.3 billion for land compensation and Sh400 million for structures that will be demolished, and added that the figures are expected to be revised upwards.
"The compensation for land the component will be done after NLC has reviewed grants and disposition of land to determine the rightful owners to receive the money scheduled to commence from July 20, 2015," said Swazuri in a joint press conference in Mombasa yesterday.
Joho said: "The issue is very sensitive and we have taken three months to negotiate and we have agreed on some issues while others are pending. We want to make it clear that we support the project, but we also want our people to be compensated well."
He said the project would decongest Mombasa and hinted that the county will negotiate with the Kenya Railway to construct a terminal in Changamwe to serve local commuters.
Mombasa County Commissioner Nelson Marwa, who has in the past threatened to order the arrest of some county officials for allegedly inciting locals to oppose the project, did not attend the meeting. He was among the leaders that were expected to sign the new deal.
"We support the SGR project and that is why we were there during the ground-breaking ceremony. But we also demand fair compensation for our people. Land issues in Mombasa are unique and should be treated differently because people here claim ancestral land ownership," said Mwinyi.