Unresolved land issues have been identified as one of the root causes of skirmishes in the battle-prone Melelo and Ololulunga wards in Narok South Sub County.
The revelation comes after a one-week consultative forum by National Cohesion and Integration Commission (NCIC) commissioners, which involved women, youth and men groups from the two communities that have been fighting one another.
The residents who spoke during a baraza held on Friday at the Narok South Technical Polytechnic and attended by the NCIC Chairperson, Rev. Samuel Kobia said a large portion of the land in the area did not have valid land documents.
“I was born in Bomet but shifted to Melelo area when I was a little girl. My mother sold all our ancestral land in Bomet to buy land in Melelo, but unfortunately to date, we have never had any legal land document,” said Ms. Joyce Chepngeno.
Ms. Chepngeno who has lived at Melelo area for over ten years now said their efforts to get the legal title deeds of the land they occupy has been futile because of many middlemen who are involved in the process.
“The people who sold us land did not give us any title deed. They only assured us that we were safe. When you try to ask them they put you off, saying the most important thing is the land not a paper,” decried Ms. Chepngeno.
Ms. Josphine Rotich echoed her sentiment saying some women were living in fear as their husbands have already sold the land they live in hence foresee being evicted any time.
“These are some of the things that bring tension in this area. So when you hear people screaming you get worried thinking the enemies have come,” she said.
She called on the government to resolve land related issues by ensuring everyone had a legal title deed to curb tension in the area.
Sylvester Ole Nchoko who represented the youth group said the youth are the most active people in times of war as they are an energetic group.
“Most of the youth are idle because they do not have money to begin business or a piece of land to do farming making them very vulnerable in times of war as they are easily influenced,” said Ole Nchoko.
The Narok South County Commissioner, Felix Kisalu faulted the community for engaging in an unrewarding battle saying over Sh. 20 million has been spent to bring peace in the area since the two communities fought each other in the month of April.
“I sat down to analyze how much has been spent since the war began. The expense of bringing the commissioners on the ground, closing business, cost of holding meetings and time spent in holding meetings amount to almost Sh. 20 million,” said the commissioner.
He promised that in three months’ time, all land related disputes will be resolved as he has already engaged the land officials to give a clear map and title deeds to the residents.
“No one will ever use land issues to go for war. The people will have to look for another factor as I will ensure I have resolved all land related cases in 90 days’ time,” said Kisalu.
He added that he has already begun a series of meetings with the group ranches officials who he asked to tell the truth about the land boundaries and their members in a bid to solve land issues in the area.
“Anyone who wants to buy land in this area should get it from the original land owner, not the brokers, because if you buy from brokers you can easily be misled and you will have no one to blame,” advised Kisalu.
“I feel you have not used even a third of my energy. I have a lot of energy to use if only I see this area peaceful. I promise you no stone will be left unturned until there is lasting peace in this area that has been known of on and off clashes,” said Kisalu.
One of the NCIC commissioners, Samuel Kona said they will continue camping in the area for next few months in a bid to ensure the two warring communities reconcile.
He added that they have formed grassroots committees comprising of men, women and youth that will be meeting regularly to discuss the emerging issues and resolve any minor differences that could reoccur in the area.
“The committees will always be active whether there is war or not. Any issue of disagreement among members of the opposite communities will be resolved by them,” he said.
The NCIC Chairman,lauded nongovernmental organizations that worked with the commission to restore peace that include United States Agency International Development (USAID) and Anglican Development Services (ADS).
He promised that the commission will empower women who suffered most in times of war as they did not have an income generating activity.
Rev. Kobia said the commission had established that the root cause of tension in the area was land-related issues where people have bought land that has dispute.
“We are happy that the office of the Deputy County Commissioner has vowed to help in resolving these issues. You should be advised that none of us chooses his or her neighbour neither can anyone change his or her neighbours hence the only thing we can do is living with them peacefully,” he said.
The recent skirmishes in the area were caused by an alleged loss of a cow that led the Kipsigis and Maasai communities fighting one another leading to the killing of eight persons and over 20 people left nursing injuries with several houses being burnt in the clashes that lasted a whole week.
This led the Rift Valley Region Commissioner, George Natembeya visiting the area and ordering the mopping up of all illegal weapons in the hands of wananchi. Already over 3000 bows, 2000 arrows and tens of spears have been surrendered.
By Ann Salaton