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Pain of Kihiu Mwiri landowners with unrecognised title deeds

By Boniface Gikandi | September 1st 2020 at 00:00:00 GMT +0300

Kihiu Mwiri resident Joseph Thiongo shows his title deed and Identity Card. [Kibata Kihu/ Standard]

About five years after title deeds were issued to members of the Kihiu Mwiri Farmers Company Limited, doubts persist on the validity of the documents.

The beneficiaries now say some of the titles issued under the Rapid Results Initiative (RRI) have been rejected by various organisations.

Pricked by decades of deaths of Kihiu Mwiri directors, President Uhuru Kenyatta in 2015 presented the company’s 6,400-odd members with title deeds after vetting by the Ministry of Lands.

Most of the original shareholders of Kihiu Mwiri, which is in Kakuzi, Gatanga sub-County in Murang’a County, were originally from Gatundu South and agemates of founding president, Jomo Kenyatta.

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Trouble started when members could not agree on plot allocation criteria.

Escaped lynching

The confusion on the validity of the title deeds for the former 1,285-acre Kihiu Mwiri farm has been blamed on lands officials said to have left their assignment half-way.

A week ago, an official at Ardhi House escaped lynching after he was spotted showing some people a piece of land in an unoccupied part of the farm.

The official, who is known to the residents, drove off after he realised he was being trailed by the locals, some armed with machetes.

Joseph Thiong’o, a beneficiary, recounted how he languished in remand for years after court officials rejected the title deed for his plot at the farm as a bond, saying  a search at the lands registries showed it had anomalies.

Mr Thiong’o said details in his title did not match those in his national identity card and the Murang’a Law Court rejected the document, and he was held at the Kamiti Maximum Prison.

The Department of Lands, he claimed, was aware of the errors yet was adamant to correct them.

“My in-laws had to bail me out after they charged their property,” he said.   

A search on his other parcel of land showed it was registered in the name of one Samuel Mwaura, a person he does not know.

Chege Thuo is among the landowners who reported to Ngati Police Station last year after his four parcels of land were irregularly registered in other people’s names.

Chege reported the matter to the police after the verification process at the Murang’a Lands Registry showed that the four parcels were registered under the names William Kamau, Dorcas Njeri, Michael Mwangi and Bernard Gachanja.

He said police officers at the station told him to report the matter to the Directorate of Criminal Investigations offices in Gatanga. He is yet to get feedback.

“My family is living in fear as my title deeds are in the wrong hands and we might be evicted,” he said.

Samuel Irungu is also problems after the title deed for the land he owned was declared invalid after a search at the lands registry in Murang’a town.

He said he was a member of the verification committee appointed by the then Lands Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i.

Irungu said he applied for a loan at a commercial bank, but the application was rejected after a valuer found that details in the application form did not match those in the lands registry.

The family of another beneficiary, the late Njeri Ng’ang’a Karanja, had to send away a man who was claiming ownership of the parcel of land where the matriarch’s grave was.

The man had a title deed and a map of the land Karanja’s family had occupied for more than 15 years.

Seeking justice

Grace Nyambura is seeking justice after her piece of land was registered in the name of a wife of a director of the company.

A land valuer said the Kihiu Mwiri land anomalies are complicated since there is a lot of mismatch between what is on the ground and the records at the Lands office.

Murang’a Lands Registrar Annie Gisemba said the Kihiu Mwiri land titling was done in Nairobi and referred all queries there. Lands Principal Secretary Nicholas Muraguri did not respond to our calls and text messages.

Kihiu Mwiri chairman Pharis Mwangi said they were concerned the confusions could create more problems.

“The government should be shown the parcels of land that match their title details,” he said.

Gatanga MP Joseph Ngugi accused Lands Department officials of sleeping on their job and failing to adhere to presidential directive to complete the assignment.

Gatanga Deputy County Commissioner David Rotich said the mystery surrounding Kihiu Mwiri was complicated and only the Department of Lands could resolve it.

Kihiu Mwiri Murang’a Law Court
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