Mayhem broke out at a Malindi informal settlement when a bulldozer under the watch of police officers demolished five houses belonging to squatters.
Hundreds of Kanyangwa residents however stopped the demolition when they moved out of their houses in droves and overpowered the police officers executing a court order issued at the Malindi High Court last December.
The residents barricaded the Malindi-Sala Gate road and lit born-fires to prevent movement of traffic to and from Malindi Town, forcing motorists to detour to avoid being pelted with stones.
When journalists arrived at the area, tension was still very high although no police officer was on the ground. The residents vowed to stay put, claiming the alleged owners of Plot Number 120 Malindi, did not have any documents to prove ownership.
They also accused the Bakshwein family of using local police officers to harass residents.
Janet Kahonzi said the bulldozer and the police officers arrived at the settlement at about 4.00 am and started demolishing houses without alerting the occupants.
“They came at about 4.00 am without notice and started demolishing houses without caring that there could be people, including children inside who could be affected,” she shouted.
Jackson Nyang’au, who said he bought the land on which his demolished house stood, said he had not been served with any eviction order.
“If the police knew that I was wrong, why did they not come during the day? Why did the alleged landowner not stop me when I was building the house?” he asked.
Mr Wilson Kazungu, a retired teacher, claimed the land in question was grabbed by Arabs from local families and accused Mr Said Bakshwein of allegedly using government agents to harass locals.
The angry residents later proceeded to another property belonging to the Bakshwein family where they burnt down a mosque and allegedly stole 135 goats ostensibly in retaliation.
Local leaders led by Malindi Member of Parliament Aisha Jumwa and Malindi Parliamentary hopeful Philip Charo, who visited the area, condemned the act.
Mr Charo said although he respected court orders, the order to evict the squatters had not been done humanely as none of the squatters had been served with the order.
He wondered why the police had ambushed the squatters at night if indeed the squatters were wrong, sentiments that were echoed by Jumwa.
Jumwa said the executors of the court order should have at least alerted local leaders in order to avert a crisis.
Malindi Deputy County Commissioner Thuo wa Ngugi and Sub County Police Commander John Kemboi declined to comment on the matter saying the order was served to the Kilifi County Commander, who could not immediately be reached for comment.
Family spokesman Said Bakshwein said the police were executing an order issued by the Deputy Registrar of the Malindi High Court in December 2020. The order had been issued to relevant authorities by a court bailiff, he said.
Mr Bakshwein, who declined to talk on camera, said the land belonged to his family after his father and uncles bought it from the original owners, who had acquired in under the Land Ordinance Act of 1908.
He showed journalists documents indicating that there had been long-standing disputes of the land in question, with all cases being ruled in favour of his family.
He said 103 squatters had sued the family for adverse possession, but their plea had been declined by both the High Court and the Court of Appeal, noting that eviction orders had been extended several times after the squatters refused to vacate.
Mr Bakswein said his family had offered to donate 60 out of the 359.91 to six genuine squatter families, but the families had refused to take the offer, choosing rather to subdivide the land and selling it to other squatters.
By Emmanuel Masha