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Mombasa squatters reject 1,000-acre gift Kisauni

COUNTIES
By Mwangi Muraguri | April 27th 2016
National Land Commission (NLC) Chairman, Professor Muhammad Swazuri addresses squatters at the disputed Thathini Farm in Kisauni Sub County in Mombasa County on April 23 2016.  Photo by Mwangi Muraguri/ Standard

Squatters on a 4,300-acre farm in Kisauni have turned down the land owners' offer to settle them on 1,000 acres of the property.

A meeting convened by National Land Commission (NLC) Chairman Muhammad Swazuri collapsed after the squatters rejected the offer, arguing that the 1,000 acres could not accommodate all of them.

Tension peaked when Dr Swazuri told the squatters that the commission would start the process of issuing title deeds to the "legitimate squatters" since the owners of the farm had agreed to part with 1,000 acres. NLC says it recognised only 3,000 squatters, but the squatters claim they are  17,000 in total.

Earlier the owners of the land said they had agreed to give out the land so as to ensure peaceful coexistence with the squatters.

The squatters say they have lived on the land since the 1970s and ought to be resettled.

Leaders called for further discussions as the land offered "would not be enough for the all".

Swazuri, whose speech was regularly interrupted by jeers from a section of the squatters, said that the law does not allow people to invade privately-owned land.

"These people bought the land whose history dates back to 1830 and none of the past governments revoked the title. So asking me to evict the owners simply because they are non-natives is against the law," he said.

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He said records showed that the 4,300-acre farm was acquired through Thathini Land Buying Company with a membership of 1,000 people between 1970 and 1979.

Swazuri said NLC would issue the squatters with title deeds, which he said could be used as collateral for loans.

But the leaders of the squatters said 1,000 acres was not enough for them and accused Swazuri of favouring the title deed holders who are non-natives.

Several Meetings

"As things stand, we have not agreed on anything. We need to hold further meetings to deliberate on this matter," said Gabriel Tella.

Mr Tella said the squatters have held several meetings with the owners of the farm together with an NLC team but had not reached an agreement.

Swazuri accused the squatters of inflating their numbers. He said that owners of a 270-acre farm in Shimoni, Kwale had agreed to part with 50 acres for resettlement of squatters.

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