Disputed Mumias plots were not gazetted after State acquisition

Residents facing eviction gather at the disputed Mumias Triangle area on April 8, 2024. [Benjamin Sakwa, Standard]

The acts of omission and commission by senior government officials over five decades ago have stalled plans to expand Mumias town.

The government, in 1971 mooted a plan to compulsorily acquire land from residents to expand Mumias town, which by then was a small market with a handful of shops.

It had to be expanded to offer necessary services to employees and locals working at Mumias Sugar Company, which was under construction.

The town was to offer land for roads, schools, shops, health facilities, residential premises, security and administration offices. But where progress seemed inevitable, a tale of government blunders unfolded, leaving the hopes of expansion dashed and quickly turned into a saga between the county and the local community over ownership of multi-million shilling parcels of land at the 'Mumias triangle'.

The Standard has established that a handful of landowners were paid but the majority were left out. "It would appear that contents of my confidential letter of April 7, 1972, addressed to the District Commissioner-Kakamega and copied to you were not taken into account," states J Bonyo, then Western region deputy provincial commissioner, in his letter to the Commissioner of Lands dated June 23, 1972.

The letter further reads: "In my letter, I pointed out that if higher rates of compensation were paid for land in the township, we would be certainly faced with numerous complaints from land owners wishing to be paid higher rates. It happens that some land owners whose land in Eluche sub-location has been acquired at a flat rate of Sh400 per acre, also have their land extending into Mumias township."

Mr Bonyo, in his letter stated that 'If any of these people is paid Sh800 per acre, the immediate reaction will be a request for adjoining land without perimeter boundary to be compensated at the same rate. I requested you to restrict access to your valuation list for the time being so that we do not provoke unnecessary complaints."

In another correspondence by Mr Bonyo also dated June 23, 1972 to then Kakamega District Commissioner, he informed him that there would be a problem if he (the DC) implemented valuations by Commissioner of Lands.

"You should therefore compensate land for Mumias township at a fixed rate of Sh400 per acre. You should act swiftly to ensure compensation is paid to rightful owners as soon as possible," Mr Bonyo's letter states in part.

He authored the letter on behalf of then Provincial Commissioner, P K Boit, chairman of Mumias Town Development Committee (MTDC).

The government is said to have released Sh900,000 to be disbursed to land owners through cheques made out to a local bank (KCB) on or about 1973. However, this money was not distributed to all landowners.

In a letter dated September 9, 1975, authored by P Nzioki on behalf of Commissioner for Lands to the Provincial Commissioner - Western, he stated that he had received complaints that some landowners were not compensated.

"A cheque of Sh900,000 was drawn in your favour, being compensation for land acquired for extension of Mumias town. So many people have been writing to us complaining that they have not yet received their compensation. By a copy of this letter, I am requesting you to act accordingly," states Mr Nzioki's letter to the PC.

The Standard has established that the process was not fully completed and no legal gazette notice was issued showing the land was compulsorily acquired by the government and payment done.

"We are having the current problem because the gazettement of the parcels acquired was not done," said acting Kakamega County Director of Surveys Caleb Shiundu.

The task force appointed by former governor Wycliffe Oparanya under chairmanship of Solomon Ouko stated that 412.6 acres of land were acquired by the government and 98 landowners affected paid promptly but the process was not concluded.

"The process of of land acquisition should be summarily concluded by gazetting all area acquired as government land," states the task force report of 2015 and up to date, no gazettement has been done.

The affected landowners have maintained that 'no one paid them' to acquire the disputed land.  They have their title deeds intact and are therefore seeking to be allowed to till the land.

“We want the county to produce 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 Musa Ndaliro, a resident.

Ndaliro said 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.

James Wambani, 67, says he has a title deed for his two-acre piece of land. “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?”

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