A storm is brewing among the county’s local leaders over land management issues, with Governor Fahim Twaha and Lamu County Assembly speaker Abdul Kassim openly differing over subdivision and title deed issuance to the 17,000 acre Swahili scheme.
The differences between the two local leaders played out in yesterday’s Mashujaa day celebrations held at the Mokowe Primary School grounds, with the County Assembly Speaker Abdul Kassim breaking rank from the governor’s position to have the 17,000 acres Swahili scheme subdivided into quarter acre plots for residents.
“The county executive wants to take away people’s rights to their ancestral land and provide them title deeds to quarter acre plots,” County Assembly speaker Abdul Kassim stated, adding that Lamu residents would be short-changed by the Governor’s plan to set aside certain areas for commercialization and investors.
In Governor’s Fahim Twaha’s spatial plan for the Swahili Scheme area, residential plots will be subdivided into quarter acre plots with at least 1,500 acres being set aside for public amenities and roads.
According to the county government, the rationale for the Swahili Scheme Spatial plan of dividing residential plots into a quarter acres is to curb the emergence of slums as informal settlements in Lamu’s port corridor, which would in the long term reduce the value of land within the Lamu mainland area
However, the County Assembly Speaker Abdul Kassim, an indigenous Mokowe resident and Swahili Scheme land owner, the county executive plan to only give land owners and settlers within the scheme would be ripping the people off
He pointed out that the Swahili Scheme land issue has been a long running saga with alternative solutions being provided by the former county administration for the residents to be given title deeds to 4 acres each.
“Lamu residents should be the main priority when it comes to subdivision of Swahili Scheme land in which non-locals are more likely to benefit from the spatial plan than locals,” Kassim stated.
The speaker said that any plan that does not ensure the residents interests are addressed will not be accepted.
He further pointed out that any plan to disenfranchise Lamu residents off of their land would be squashed at the county assembly, a sentiment that pits the county executive and the county assembly against each other when it comes to land management issues within the county.
He further intimated that there are reports that well connected individuals have already made title deeds for ranches within the Swahili Scheme area.
“The public participation exercise carried out on Monday this week was a farce aimed at hoodwinking Lamu residents that the county government is keen on resolving the Swahili Scheme issue, yet some land is already being divvied up to well-connected individuals rather than ensure residents get their rightful land titles,” Kassim stated.
Roads and Lands CEC Fahima Araphat however differed within the Speaker’s sentiments and sought to assure residents that no one will lose their land parcels stating that those with land parcels at Swahili scheme will get their rightful titles.
Sentiments echoed by Lamu governor Fahim Twaha who stated that the county government is committed towards ensuring that the Swahili Scheme is subdivided fairly among locals.
He also said that a consensus will be sought from locals with more public participation expected to ensure that the concerns of locals are addressed with regards to the Swahili Scheme.
Lamu Women Representative Ruweida Obo on her part stated that a land audit is needed to ensure that no unscrupulous individuals benefit from the Swahili scheme and reveal any hidden underhanded dealings on land management issues affecting Lamu residents.
By Amenya Ochieng