Officials from National Land Commission (NLC) are set to conduct a valuation exercise in Taita-Taveta County for twelve private land parcels that were irregularly fenced off by Kenya Airports Authority (KAA) and given to Ikanga Airstrip in Voi sub-county.
After the exercise, the NLC will give directions to KAA on amounts to be paid to owners of each parcel in an exercise that will bring to an end the protracted land dispute between the airport authority and local residents.
The County NLC official, Dennis Mutungi said the valuers will visit the affected land at Ikanga area to establish how much they are worth for purposes of buying them from their owners.
He added that after acquiring the parcels, KAA would be the legitimate owners of the land.
“The officials are coming to conduct an evaluation exercise on the disputed land parcels to end the dispute between residents and KAA,” he said.
Mutungi was speaking in Mwatate on Tuesday during the County Development Implementation and Coordination Committee (CDICC) meeting which was chaired by the County Commissioner (CC), Rhoda Onyancha.
The authority has been embroiled in a bitter conflict with over 55 local residents who accused it of illegally extending the boundaries of the sh. 300-million airstrip.
The residents claimed that while erecting a fence around the airstrip, fifteen parcels of privately-owned land were fenced off, rendering the affected residents landless.
A ground-verification report from the County Lands Office dated 4th April 2018 confirmed that KAA had illegally fenced off the disputed land parcels during the process of securing the airstrip land from land-grabbers in 2015.
The report further disclosed that the runway at the airstrip measured a length of 580 meters against the original length of 520 meters as cited in the designs. The runway also had a width of 102 meters against the approved width of 50 meters.
A road adjacent to the airstrip was also partially closed by the fencing cutting off residents from accessing their farms.
In May this year, Senate Committee on Lands, Environment and Natural Resources toured the area to verify the claims of encroachment by KAA. Led by the committee Chairman, Mwangi Githiomi, the members received a petition from the affected residents who demanded for compensation from KAA.
The committee chair said that KAA should move with speed to compensate the local residents which would help operationalize the airstrip that has been idle owing to the long-drawn conflict.
“This airstrip should be in use because its public money that was used to put it up. KAA should resolve this matter as quickly as possible to avoid further delays,” Githiomi who is also Nyandarua senator said.
The local residents said they are not opposed to the project and wanted to see it operational as soon as possible. Joseph Mwaludi, one of the affected farmers, said they only wanted fairness in the whole exercise of land acquisition by KAA.
“We are happy about the project but would like to be compensated for our land,” he said.
There are reports that KAA might approach the local residents for extra land so as to create a buffer zone between residents’ homes and the facility as a safety precaution during plane take-offs and landings.
By Wagema Mwangi