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50 years later, Kenyattas yet to claim Western Kenya land

By Robert Amalemba | March 12th 2021

Stephen Murumba during an interview with The Standard. [Benjamin Sakwa, Standard]

Facing the magnificent Webuye Nabuyole Falls in Bungoma County is a two-acre piece of land gifted to Mzee Jomo Kenyatta some 50 years ago by the Bukusu sub-tribe of Luhya.

The logic was simple, to offer Mzee a place where he could relax off of his tight and often tiresome State functions whenever he visited Western Kenya.

But residents claim Mzee Kenyatta and his family have never shown interest occupying the land since 1971, when a villager, Fwesa Walubengo, handed it over to him.

The closest to claiming the parcel came last year when Environment CS Keriako Tobiko, visited and mentioned in passing the particular portion, popularly known as ‘Mzee’s Land’.

“Tobiko said that he was aware about the generosity of the locals who gave Mzee the parcel. We assured him that the land was well reserved,” said Joseph Mukweyi, the assistant chief for Mihuu sub-location.

Walubengo's sons have since planted some eucalyptus trees on the said plot but they indicated that they were willing to hand the property to the owners any day.

In 1971, President Kenyatta visited Bungoma County with a handful of promises which included tarmacking roads and making industries e.g. the Webuye Pan Paper Mills.

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“We were so excited to the point that one of our own gave his land to Mzee. The masses were equally happy with Mzee’s indigenisation policy,” said Stephen Murumba, 87, who was the area chief when Mzee toured Nabuyole.

Broderick was the first prominent white man to settle in Webuye and like many of his peers he could not resist the temptation of naming the falls and the town after himself claiming that he discovered the former.

“We planted sisal from Webuye town all the way to Nabuyole falls where Mzee had his lunch with a host of local leaders and his cabinet on the land overlooking the falls. We definitely knew he loved the site,” says Murumba who was just 37 during the visit.

“His (Kenyattta’s) proclamation that the right name for the falls was Nabuyole could have also influenced the late Walubengo to donate the land. Many of us thought he would eventually set up a quasi-presidential suite at the two-acre piece.”

The people were not only impressed with the president but with his private secretary Isaiah Mathenge who also got an acre from the Walubengos. The parcel sits a stone’s throw from Jomo’s.

“I remember Mzee planted a Mugumo tree around the area to mark it as his own. Now, not even his son has showed interest in taking the parcel,” says the former chief.

The area around the fall is also home to stone, sand and ballast harvesters.

“I don’t know whose land it is but what is clear is that we have been harvesting ballast from here all our life,” said one ballast harvester.

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