As early as 6am on Thursday, a long queue had formed at Mahiga Primary School in Kahawa West, winding down the entrance into the school and spilling outside onto the road.
Owners of parcels of land situated within the estate flooded the school in anticipation of the registration process that would allow them get land title deeds, after 38 years of waiting. All they had as proof of ownership of their land were allotment letters from the defunct Nairobi City Council.
“It is an advantage getting the title deeds because we can now do a lot of things we couldn’t do before. For instance, we can use the land to access credit,” said Ken Wamae, owner of a 60 by 40 metres plot.
Even as the processing of the deeds is ongoing, Wamae said he could finally rest easy, knowing that his land has been officially registered.
“The disadvantage of allotment letters is that they can’t get you out of predicaments like when you’re unable to clear a medical bill, you cannot take it to the bank for a loan,” said Kamau Gichomo, a former councilor of Kahawa Estate, and an owner of a plot within the estate.
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Residents described the registration process, which was coordinated by officials from the Ministry of Lands and Nairobi Metropolitan Services (NMS) as “fast and efficient”.
By midday on the first day of the registration, the queues had shortened considerably. While the ministry’s officials undertook the registration process, those from NMS verified the allotment letters against the records of the City Council.
For years, local leaders, such as Kahawa West MCA, Anthony Ng’ang’a have petitioned the government to allocate title deeds to the landowners. Their pleas were heard after a recent visit by President Uhuru Kenyatta, in the area.
The landowners’ acquisition of title deeds was also largely hindered by a grueling court case that dragged on from 1991 to last year, when the Lands Court in Nairobi made a ruling.
Kamuthi Farmers Co-operative Society Ltd had sued Nairobi County over the ownership of the land, comprising 154.5 acres and another 21.238 acres, with the cooperative society, which sold it to the council, accusing the latter of failing to fully pay for it. However, the court ruled in favour of the county.
Kahawa Estate, which had 600 houses at the time the council sold plots about 40 years ago, was built between 1978 and 1982.
The 600 houses were then assigned to buyers using a lottery system.
The land now has more than 2,000 plots under 3,000 owners following subsequent allocations that were done after the sale.
Some of those who acquired the land redeveloped it, putting up apartments and other structures, whereas others have retained the original structures.
In September, NMS announced that it had initiated the process of verifying documents for the processing of title deeds which would run until this month, following a directive by President Kenyatta.
The directive placed emphasis on the allocation of deeds in 21 wards within the city, many of which are located in informal settlements such as Mathare, Huruma, Kariobangi and Dandora.
Farida Karoney, the Lands Cabinet Secretary, revealed that the ministry would waive all fees for the registration of county government allotted land and tenant purchase schemes. More than 30,000 deeds had been issued to landowners in the city by the end of September.