At least 30 families who have been involved in a protracted land dispute for more than 30 years are celebrating the issuance of title deeds.
Khavai Karachi, one of the beneficiaries, and her family were embroiled in a land dispute, and she had no idea where to turn for assistance.
Since then, the process of transferring land titles into her name has been slow.
“I paid Sh200,000 for a parcel of land in Butali, Kakamega North, but the seller refused to hand over the property to me,” Karachi told The Standard.
She was forced to spend over Sh50,000 visiting land offices in vain in search of the valuable title deed.
“Because the seller was not cooperating and I was constantly afraid of losing the land, I decided to seek help from the Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA-Kenya) and Human Rights activists,” Karachi said.
Another beneficiary, Mark Ndombi, said he purchased a plot of land in Kakamega North on behalf of Ushindi Baptist Church in the early 1990s, but “we almost lost the property when land feuds emerged”.
“It became hectic to have a land title transfer and I was forced to approach FIDA-Kenya for help. I don’t want anyone else to go through what I went through; people should be cautious before purchasing land to avoid getting involved in land disputes,” Ndombi said.
Hinest Mukabana also purchased a plot in Butali, but the seller refused to let him own it.
“I paid huge sums of money to lawyers who promised to help me but it was not possible; later, I managed to get help through mediation court where FIDA Kenya helped us as a group to have our title deeds processed,” Mukabana said.
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A beneficiary, William Mmasi, says he purchased land in 1996, but that “getting a title deed was a herculean task because the seller was unwilling to participate in the land ownership transfer process.”
According to Janet Anyango of FIDA Kenya, the organisation has been collaborating with Community-Based Organisations (CBOs) to address property ownership disputes, particularly those involving women and girls.
“A woman’s right to own property, inherit and manage or dispose of her property has long been under attack from customary practices that grant women only secondary rights to land, thus violating women’s rights.
“We have counsellors and lawyers providing pro bono services and educating locals on succession, inheritance, and the land acquisition process,” Anyango says.
They collaborate closely with local government, the judiciary, and other stakeholders. “Court-annexed mediation has assisted many people in resolving land cases,” she said.
Anyango says most land disputes result in Gender Based Violence if they are not resolved.