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Faithful paid with hard labour for Mavoko plots, pastor recalls

A bulldozer demolishes a house in the disputed Portland land in Mavoko, Machakos County. [Peterson Githaiga, Standard]

A pastor whose church was demolished in Mavoko said getting land in the area was difficult, but has ended in tears.

Shadrack Musau of Mountain View Baptist Church said securing land in the Portland area is painful. He said dozens of people who acquired plots from Aimi Ma Lukenya society had to donate their labour for up to six months way back in 2012, to qualify for a 50x100 plot.

Musau, who back then was leading a church in Kitengela town, Kajiado County, said he was desperate to find adequate space to accommodate his rapidly expanding flock.

He came across an advert in the press by Aimi Ma Lukenya Society, offering plots for people who sign up for registration. The membership fee was Sh60,000. After surveying the vast land located a few kilometres off Mombasa Road, the man of God signed up as a member.

He also mobilised his church members to contribute cash for a separate membership with a view to acquiring a plot to erect a new church branch. It went down well.

"Since the society did not have money, the management commissioned members to offer daily labour which included clearing of bushes, erecting beacons and ferrying water and other construction materials to the settlement. After six months of hard labour, the society would issue a certificate of ownership of a plot," recalls Musau.

The deal, although tedious and weary, apparently attracted several of his church members, desperate for land. "The chain of ownership is now complicated because there are members who would transfer their plots to new buyers who would part with between Sh300,000 to Sh500,000 for the same plot," he said.

However, events of last week where bulldozers descended on homes and other amenities including places of worship left Musau, dozens of his church members and thousands of other Kenyans heartbroken.

"We cannot believe what is happening right now. The amount of pain we are going through cannot be described in words. The government has done the unthinkable to its own citizens. From where I stand, many people will live with the trauma of losing their hard-earned savings for the rest of their lives," he said.

Musau said prior to the acquisition of the land, members did a search at the Ministry of Lands in Ardhi House and were granted a clean bill of health.

"In 2015, then chairman of National Land Commission, Mohammed Swazuri visited the scheme and assured members that everything was fine," he recalls.

In a story published by The Standard in October 2015, then NLC chairman Muhammad Swazuri cautioned cartels collecting millions of shillings from unsuspecting Kenyans by purporting to sell them government land in Athi River.

"I have been visiting this area to help solve land disputes, but I'm shocked to meet the same people who call themselves squatters in every disputed land I visit. I wonder whether they are "professional business squatters," he said.

Swazuri was addressing a meeting attended by squatters who had allegedly encroached on the land.

By AFP 17 hrs ago
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