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Government steps up efforts to repossess grabbed heritage sites

The government has stepped up efforts to repossess and protect all grabbed heritage sites belonging to the National Museums of Kenya (NMK) country-wide.

State Department for Culture, the Arts and Heritage Principal Secretary Ummy Bashir, said the government would not sit back and watch as tycoons use their wealth to illegally acquire land belonging to the NMK.

Ms Bashir, said this during a tour of several NMK heritage sites in Kilifi County that included the Gedi Museum and the Portuguese Chapel in Malindi Sub County as well as the Mtwapa Heritage Site in Kilifi South Sub County.

She said it was foolhardy for individuals to claim to have acquired the NMK land that was gazetted long before they were born.

Speaking at the Mtwapa Heritage Site where the government started demolishing a perimeter wall erected by a local tycoon Wednesday, the visibly agitated PS said she would liaise with the County Government of Kilifi and her counterpart in the Ministry of Lands to ensure all grabbed heritage sites in the area are returned to government.

“We have decided to take serious action in conjunction with the County Government of Kilifi. It is disturbing that some people acquired land through devious means and insist that it belongs to them because they have sale agreements that they got two years ago while this land has been a gazetted heritage site since 1935,” she said.

“Hatusemi polepole na hatusemi tafadhali. This land belongs to the national government and as government, we are taking stern measures; whether you erect a wall or whether you bring goons trying to intimidate the government,” she said after a group of goons tried to stop her team from repossessing the Mtwapa Heritage Site.

She asked Kenyans to do due diligence before acquiring any land and ensure that all their developments are approved by relevant national and county government agencies to avoid losses.

“There are agencies in place. There is the Country Government of Kilifi. For anybody to construct anything, they need clearance from relevant county government departments,” she noted.

Earlier, there was drama at the Mtwapa Heritage Site when the government officials drawn from the national and County government tried to repossess the grabbed piece of land belonging to the NMK.
The eight-acre piece of land was allegedly hived off from the Mtwapa Heritage Site and grabbed by a private developer working in cahoots with ministry of land officials two years ago and a title deed issued.

Kilifi County askaris accompanied by the officers from the County department of Lands, Energy and Physical Planning, the Principal Secretary and NMK officials led by the board chairman Dr Edwin Abonyo tried to break down the wall but they were attacked by goons allegedly hired by the developer known as Salim Awath.
The goons pelted stones at an earth excavator after the gate and part of the wall had been flattened prompting everyone to scamper for safety.

Culture, the Arts and Heritage Principal Secretary Ummy Bashir tours the Portuguese Chapel in Malindi town.

Police from the Mtwapa police station were forced to rush to the scene to provide security as the government officers continued with their work.
However, Awath said that he bought the piece of land from a commercial bank and was issued with approval letter from Kilifi County to proceed with developing the land only for the County to revoke the approval.
He blamed two local elected politicians for his woes claiming the leaders had incited wananchi against him.

“When I bought this piece of land from a commercial bank two years ago, the two politicians organised goons to frustrate me and they brought down a wall I had initially constructed. I have all approvals and the title deed for the land,” he claimed.

NMK Board Charman Dr Abonyo warned Awath to desist from hiring goons to disrupt government officers from doing their work adding that the tycoon had fraudulently acquired the land and destroyed national monuments on it

Governor Gideon Mung’aro warned of more demolitions saying that grabbing of public land was derailing the government’s development agenda.
“Land grabbing is very rampant in Kilifi, especially Kilifi South and government officers are some of the culprits. I will bring down any structure on government land and I want to stand with PS Ummi and Cabinet Secretary Kithure Kindiki,” he said.

While addressing journalists in Kilifi on Wednesday, Prof  Kindiki warned public officials who were working with land grabbers in the area of dire consequences and ordered all public land that had been grabbed to be repossessed immediately.

At the Portuguese Chapel, the team inspected an adjacent storey building project being constructed by a Chinese Investor that the NMK stopped after it emerged that the building would obscure the chapel that attracts hundreds of pilgrims annually.

By Emmanuel Masha


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