Government responsible for rampant corruption in the land commission

“You don’t have to say, what you say, I already know, I found out from him.”

In June 2014, Agnes Mbeke Munyao was on her farm in Makindu, Makueni County harvesting peas. She saw “white” people on her farm.

She stopped harvesting and walked to where they stood to greet them. The “white” people were accompanied by a police officer.

He was carrying a gun. Before she could speak to the “white” people the police officer shouted at her stating “Toka hapa! Toka hapa!” (Leave this place). The “white” people were Chinese.

They had to come to inspect her land for purposes of construction of the Standard Gauge Railway. No one gave her notice of the visit. Later on, other people returned to her land severally.

They never gave her notice. They never greeted her on any of her visits. They dug trenches on her land. They cut her grass and uprooted the peas she had farmed. 

Agnes was not present when the National Lands Commission (NLC) conducted the hearing to take over her land. She was never given any basis for the compensation the commission awarded for her property. She was not advised to or given an opportunity to obtain a market price valuation of her property. 

Compulsorily acquired

Jones Mulandi Mbawa also owned land in Makindu. In May 2014 personnel from Kenya Railways went to his land, took measurements and put red strips of cloth on it. He did not receive notice before they visited the land.

Like Agnes, he was not present when the commission determined the compensation for his land which they compulsorily acquired. He was also not advised or given an opportunity to obtain market valuation for his land.

Joseph K M Kiema inherited property from his late father in the same area. In February 2014, he found red flags on his land. He wasn’t given notice of their visit or the reason for the red flags. Later a surveyor from Kenya Railways would visit and inform him that he would not take account of the sisal plants, grass and trees in valuing his land. In September 2014, he requested for assistance at the District Commissioner’s office on his claim for compensation. He was informed to either accept his claim as it was or go to court. No advice was offered to him.

When the residents of Makueni, represented by their Member of Parliament, approached the courts to stop the acquisition of their land, and to demand better treatment from the commission, the government, through the office of the Attorney General, was in the forefront in defending the NLC.  

It shouldn’t surprise anyone that the commission paid higher compensation for a sisal plantation in Voi than for a similar sisal plantation in Makueni.

This is nothing compared to how they treated the elderly, the poor, the powerless, the illiterate and the voiceless in Makueni.

It shouldn’t surprise anyone that the Commission paid out billions for land that belonged to the government. They only did so because when the people of Makueni shouted a warning about their practices the commission was protected by the government and allowed to continue in their errant ways.

Long before they turned on the government, their guns had been trained on the poor in Makueni who they used for target practice. 

For any doubting Thomas, challenge the commission for the written record of the proceedings of the hearings in Makueni County for compensation to all the land owners whose land was compulsorily acquired for the Standard Gauge Railway.

Kenya, as Justin Timberlake sang, “Your bridges are burned, now it’s your turn, just go on and cry a river.”

-The writer is an Advocate of the High Court of Kenya. [email protected]