10,000 face eviction at Kwa Bulo as squatters ask to be resettled

Some of the homes at Kwa Bulo settlement in Mombasa County. [Kelvin Karani, Standard]

About 10,000 squatters living at the Kwa Bulo settlement face eviction after the landowners put the parcels up for sale.

However, Kenya National Assurance (2001) Limited has allowed the occupants of the 1,413 plots to own the land on the condition they bid for the parcels.

The squatters yesterday said they were in a dilemma since KNA has flooded the settlement with notices putting the 86.7-acre land up for sale while they were waiting for communication from the government on a plan to buy the land for them as promised by President William Ruto last year.

The owners had asked for Sh1 billion to part with the land.

Kwa Bulo Land Committee chairman, Omar Tsori, said the President and Nyali MP Mohamed Ali had publicly assured them that the land would be purchased by the government for their formal settlement.

“We are now in a dilemma because KNA has issued notices telling us to buy the plots we occupy or they will be sold to other interested parties. We are asking the President to intervene and ensure the government buys that land to save us from eviction. We saw the notices all over Kwa Bulo last week, and we were shocked,” he pleaded.

KNA has advised those interested in the 1,413 plots put up for sale to apply for the same before April 1.

According to the notices, KNA and Kencent Holdings Limited are offering 1,413 plots for sale through competitive bidding open to everybody, including those living on the plots.

The controversial plot number LRMN/397/1 in Bamburi, which houses over 10,000 squatters, has been a campaign tool for every politician who wants to be Nyali MP, Mombasa governor, or president.

KNA and Kencent Holdings Limited have said they will open the bids at the company offices at Social Security Building in Mombasa at 10 am on April 2.

“Those who responded to the earlier offer and have fully paid for their plots are invited to collect their titles,” said the two firms in a notice.

Last year, President Ruto promised to address the problem, which has turned out to be similar to the situation at Waitiki farm in Likoni, where squatters and land owner Evanson Kamau Waitiki had endless court battles until the government bought the 930-acre parcel in 2016 to settle the squatters.

Each squatter was asked to pay the government Sh182,000 for the parcel he occupied after it was acquired from the businessman.

Like Waitiki farm, Kwa Bulo is dotted with many high-rise buildings and bungalows, raising questions about the economic state of the squatters the state is buying the land for.

However, both settlements also have poor families. Reports indicate that at least 16 people with modern houses and businesses at Kwa Bulo have paid the owners of the land for the pieces of land they occupy and are waiting to be issued with title deeds.

While addressing an interdenominational prayer meeting at Mama Ngina Waterfront in November last year, Ruto said the state will use part of the Sh1 billion set aside for the resettlement of squatters in the country to buy the 86.7-acre Kwa Bulo land for those occupying it.

Local leaders, led by Nyali MP Ali, termed the President’s move as justice for squatters who have, for years, lived in fear of eviction. He said this was a culmination of lobbying.

“It will end their fear of insecurity and forced evictions over their rightful land ownership. I am humbled and pleased to see the president address this,” said Ali.

In an interview, Tsori said the settlement of over 10,000 families living on the 86.7-acre piece of land has been a hot political topic.

“Because of our numerical strength, politicians have, in every election cycle, promised to settle us but leave us out to dry after we have voted for them,” said Tsori.

The squatters said they are worried new owners of the plot might charge them a lot of money, which they cannot afford.