Hundreds of people have been flocking to the once sleepy town of Hindi this week to try their luck as the national and county government undertake the task of subdividing Hindi 5,000 hectares of land to Lamu residents in a move aimed at resolving the squatter situation in Lamu.
With Lamu presently undergoing a transformation with the expected launch of the Lamu port later this month, hundreds of people have been flocking Hindi town where there are 40 surveyors, sent from the ministry of Lands to demarcate and survey 5,000 acres Hindi Phase 2 otherwise known as the Swahili Scheme per a Presidential directive.
The Presidential Directive was issued last month during the head of state’s impromptu visit to the county to inspect ongoing progress with the Lamu port whose first berth is expected to be operational before the end of this year.
It was during the tour that President Uhuru Kenyatta, met Hindi residents and promised that the national government would issue title deeds that would finally resolve the squatter crisis that has afflicted Lamu since independence.
According to Lamu County Executive for Land Fahima Araphat the exercise would eliminate landlessness, land grabbing and displacement which have been common fixtures in the land management crisis affecting Lamu.
“There is political goodwill to ensure that Lamu residents get titles to their land as this is the only way we can ensure that development takes place in Lamu,” Fahima tells KNA in an interview.
She adds that it is only by issuing titles to Lamu people that development will take place, reiterating that it is very hard to develop land that one has no title for fear of displacement.
“Land management in Lamu is a prickly subject that needs political goodwill as well as support from the locals in order to tackle it justly,” she reiterates adding that by fair land distribution the perennial farmer/ pastoralist conflicts will also be resolved.
Fahima maintains that the land survey will be fair and that those Lamu residents seeking land will be considered in the Swahili Scheme.
Sentiments echoed by Lamu Governor, Fahim Twaha who maintains that process will be fair and transparent.
However in the mad rush for hundreds to acquire land in the Swahili Scheme it is not lost to the many Lamu residents that some parts of the scheme have already been claimed by ranchers who have hived off some parts of the land which could lead to a security crisis.
The Lamu County Commissioner (CC), Samson Macharia has however, maintained that as long as the process is government led and people oriented, that security for all will be paramount.
There have been fears that unless the process is handled fairly, sponsored violence is likely to erupt in the ensuing quest for land in Hindi area.
“I assure Lamu residents that the national government’s resolve has not changed in ensuring that the county does not suffer unwanted violence due to the changing landscape on land redistribution,” he assures.
Jane Waithera Kuria, a Hindi resident who is hoping to get a title deed states that the land survey process though noble appears rushed and in short notice.
She states that there are fears that some people could be locked out of owning land being that they are residents who fled the 2016 violence that plagued the area before the 2017 elections.
“We fear that majority of our neighbours who left to their rural homes following the attacks will lose their land, we therefore pray for extension since the notice given was very short” Waithera observes.
The Lamu West Deputy County Commissioner, Louis Ronoh also notes that the era of land grabbing also known as “Witemere is coming to an end with the land survey process.
He lauded the effort stating that it would aid in not only developing Lamu into a modern county but would also aid in resolving farmer pastoralist conflicts that have been rife in Lamu.
By Amenya Ochieng