Land brokers who have allocated themselves huge tracts at the Yala swamp will have to share part of their portions with vulnerable members of the public, Siaya Deputy County Commissioner, Joseph Sawe has said.
Sawe at the same time ordered an immediate stop to cultivation in the swamp at night and told the management of the Lake Agro Limited not to allow unknown people into the wetland.
Speaking to the media after a fact-finding mission in the wetland, the deputy county commissioner said that the 2,000 acres that the investor had allowed the locals to temporarily till should benefit the local villagers to enable them produce food for their families.
He said it was a pity that a few individuals had allocated themselves huge tracts of the public land which they were leasing out to outsiders at colossal amounts at the expense of the landless locals.
The public land is under lease to Lake Agro Limited, a subsidiary of the West Kenya Sugar company and it has allowed the locals to use a portion of it temporarily.
“Those who think that they want everything will lose. Let them share so that everyone gets something,” said Sawe who was accompanied on the fact-finding tour by Siaya sub county police commander, senior superintendent Justus Kucha and the central Alego ward member of the county assembly, Leonard Oriaro.
The DCC called on the residents around the Yala swamp to use the resources in harmony and avoid wrangles, warning that the government will be forced to chuck them out of the wetland on security grounds should they fail to keep order.
Addressing the media, Central Alego MCA, Leonard Oriaro hailed the national government for its timely intervention in the matter and expressed hope that the ordinary citizens, who have been at the mercy of the tycoons, will finally get a share of the wetland.
Oriaro said that the controversy in the swamp was occasioned by moneyed brokers who invaded the swamp with tractors and took over the small parcels that belonged to the villagers, merging them with portions that they were clearing.
“These people are sourcing for people from outside Siaya who pay them as much as Sh 20,000 per acre of land,” said Oriaro adding that in the quest to mint more, the grabbers have been displacing the elderly, widows and other vulnerable members of the society.
Oriaro said that some of the grabbers have as much as 200 acres where they have planted sugarcane and other crops.
He said that villagers who dared to question the forceful acquisition of the small parcels that they had cleared have been threatened by hired goons sent to intimidate them.
The MCA blamed the rising tension in the swamp on the outsiders whom, he added, should be locked out for sponsoring animosity.
He welcomed the suggestion that individuals should not be allowed to own more than five acres of land in the swamp, adding that a few people must not be allowed to get richer at the expense of others.
The fact-finding mission was occasioned by a protest match to the county headquarters by a group of elderly men and women who sought government intervention, accusing land grabbers of forcing them out of the land they have cultivated for decades.
By Philip Onyango.