Families left homeless as county, locals battle for 210-acre land

Police stand guard at the disputed Mumias Triangle plots on April 8, 2024. [Benjamin Sakwa, Standard]

At least 35 families have been left homeless after they were evicted from a disputed piece of land.

Some of the farmers who had taken advantage of the ongoing long rains to plant are now helpless.

Police officers led by Mumias West Sub County Police Commander Stephen Muoni ordered them to stop planting and vacate the troubled land. Five people were injured as the officers used tear gas to disperse defiant residents.

The county government is claiming the land, but the farmers claim they have documents to prove their ownership. “This is my land. You cannot order me and the workers to move out for no good reason,” said Suleiman Sumba.

"The title deeds to my two parcels of land at Mumias Triangle are here but the county government is claiming ownership of it.”

He added: “As we are talking, the maize seeds I bought are wasting away in the fields as the police have denied us access to the farm."

Sumba said a similar thing happened last year. "We planted maize but unknown people cut down the crops at night."

James Wambani, 67, says he has a title deed for his two-acre piece of land, but claims to have been warned against planting.

“Between the person who has a title deed and the one who does not have any, who should claim ownership of the plot in dispute?” said Wambani.

“The county is claiming that the parcels were sold to the government by our forefathers. We have asked them to show us the records showing the plots were sold but they don’t have anything to show not even a payment voucher.”

Wambani wondered why the government never processed a title deed 52 years after the alleged compulsory acquisition of the 210-acre land at Ekama, Mumias town. "We still have the original title deeds of our forefathers that we have been using to carry our succession."

According to Musa Ndaliro, a resident, the defunct Mumias Town Council issued similar threats in 1992 and 1993. In June 2006, over 20 families were evicted at night to pave the way for the construction of the Nabongo Cultural Centre.

Ndaliro said since 2013, they have been receiving threats and intimidation from senior government officials.

“We want the county to show us a legal gazette notice showing that the land was compulsorily acquired by the government and payment was done, a chief valuer’s valuation report showing how much each person was to receive and payment vouchers signed by all affected persons,” said Ndaliro.

Lands Chief Officer Justine Mutobera promised to produce the relevant documents to prove ownership.

In June 2019, Governor Wycliffe Oparanya's attempts to evict hundreds of families from the land failed. Notices were issued and county officials under police protection erected beacons.

But a letter dated January 20, 2014, from former National Lands Commission Vice Chairperson Abigael Mbagaya and addressed to Oparanya had a contrary opinion.

“The commission has studied the documents you presented and would like to notify you that the commission does not have records of the acquisition of land for the extension of Mumias town," said the commission.

However the police said they would not allow the farmers or the county government officials at the disputed plots. "We only came to maintain law and order as we cannot sit down and see the locals and county officials taking law into their own hands," said Muoni.