More than two years since the government issued title deeds to about 170 residents of Chakama location in Kilifi County, some of the beneficiaries were yet to identify the land whose titles they held.
Consequently, they have asked the authorities to show them their pieces of land to bring to an end anxiety that has gripped them since they received the documents during the 2017 presidential election campaigns.
“Many of us are wondering what to do with the papers since we have failed to identify the land for which we hold the titles,” says Chengo Mure, a village elder in the location.
Mure says some of the beneficiaries have been forced to sell the documents at throwaway prices since they think they were duped for political reasons.
“Each beneficiary received a title deed for land measuring 7.5 acres, but since they do not know their respective pieces, some have been selling the papers at as low as Sh150, 000, just to get over the anxiety,” he says.
“The papers we are holding do not have any value since we cannot trace the pieces of land as stated in the land documents,” he said at the Chakama chief’s camp.
He claimed that the land adjudication and allocation exercise was skewed since the original list of beneficiaries was replaced with one that included “outsiders” who were allocated lands along River Sabaki while the residents were pushed to the dry parts of the location.
“Some names of locals were omitted from the original list of beneficiaries and replaced by outsiders,” he said adding, “the outsiders were allocated fertile lands along River Sabaki while the residents were pushed to the dry parts.”
Mure urged concerned officers to visit the area and explain how the allocations were done, claiming that the locals had found themselves with total strangers as neighbours, who were also pushing them out of their homesteads claiming to own the land.
“Some strange people have been coming to Chakama brandishing title deeds and forcing locals out of their homesteads,” he alleged.
Chakama has had a history of controversies. In 1978, a group of people, among them local politicians, approached the locals and convinced them to form the Chakama Ranching Company.
The 100,000 acres of land was then hived off and registered in the name of Chakama Ranching Company on a 45-year lease hold under the then Kilifi County Council.
Sometime later, the directors of the ranching company took a Sh.100 million loan from a local commercial bank and defaulted in payment, forcing the financial institution to advertise the land for sale.
Some residents waged a media campaign that eventually forced the government of Retired President Mwai Kibaki to stop the sale in 2004.
Kibaki directed then Finance Minister, David Mwiraria to identify funds to rescue the 100,000 acres with a view to settling the more than 4,000 residents occupying the land.
The government later bought the land at Sh.108 million but it was not until the run up to the 2017 General Election when part of the land was hurriedly adjudicated and title deeds issued by President Uhuru Kenyatta at the Karisa Maitha grounds in Kilifi Town.
Bension Chengo, who says he was born and brought up in Chakama, said he witnessed the first adjudication programme in 1978 as he was among the casual labourers who helped lands officials in the exercise.
“During that time, we were told that the land would be a ranch and that we would benefit, but this was never to be. It was not until the 2017 General Elections campaigns that the government came with the title deeds,” he says.
“The irony of this is that although we were given the land title deeds, we were not shown the physical pieces of land we had been allocated, and that is why many opted to sell the papers at as little as Sh.150, 000,” he says.
The Institute of Participatory Development (IPD) has embarked on a sensitization campaign to educate locals on the importance of the title deeds to stop them from selling the documents.
The Kilifi County Government, through its County Executive Committee Member (CECM) for Lands, Charles Dadu, has urged the residents to be patient as his office would soon start showing them their lands.
“I urge them not to sell the documents since we will soon embark on an exercise of showing the beneficiaries of phase one of the project the land they own,” Dadu told journalists.
He said his department was waiting for maps so that it could start the plot verification process. He said where there would be disparities, his officers would do “plot swapping” so that people could continue staying on their original homesteads.
“We shall issue another 2,500 title deeds for land measuring 6.5 acres each,” he said adding, “If the residents waited for years to get the documents, why have they suddenly grown impatient?”
The Lands Chief Administrative Secretary (CAS), Gideon Mung’aro also warned the beneficiaries against selling their title deeds, adding that the government would show them their pieces of land.
Mung’aro, a former Member of Parliament for Malindi, urged locals to stop the habit of selling their land and squating in other areas.
“As a ministry, we have listed everyone we gave title deeds not only in Chakama but the whole country and we shall not be giving them second title deeds in the new settlement schemes they ran to,” he said.
By Emmanuel Masha