Residents of Pindukiani village in Msabaha, Kilifi County, have asked the government to intervene and help resolve a long-standing land dispute between them and an Asian tycoon.
They also urged the government to investigate the conduct of police officers in Malindi Sub County for allegedly being compromised to harass the more than 250 families ostensibly in the officers’ quest to execute a court order to evict them from the over 70 acres of land.
The residents, who spoke to journalists on the disputed land Tuesday, claimed that their lives were in danger as the police officers were constantly on the disputed land to ensure that they do not occupy it.
They claimed that the land in dispute was their ancestral land and vowed to resist any attempts by the tycoon and some government officials to disposes them.
They claimed that an Asian only identified as Patel, bought only quarter an acre of the land from elders but later developed an interest in cashew nut trade, thereby convincing the elders to lease the trees to him.
Patel, they said, later convinced the elders to allow him to fence off the entire land for two years to secure the farm produce that were being stolen by the locals.
Patel later died and his son, Ashuk allegedly advertised the 70 acres for sale, attracting two other Asians Raymad Khan and Mohamed Sadiq, who paid Sh750,000 each to buy the land.
According to David Muhanda, who said he was present when the two bought the land, locals confronted buyers and told them that the Asian who had sold the land to them had only purchased quarter an acre of the land and leased cashew nut trees within the entire 70 acres.
“When Raymad realized there was a dispute, he decided to sell his share of the land and Sadiq refunded him the Sh750,000 and took possession of the entire piece of land. Sadiq later sold the land to the current owner,” Mr. Muhanda said.
Muhanda said two buyers were warned by a private surveyor they had hired that they could encounter problems since the land in question had not been documented.
Mr. Edison Chengo, Sammy Gona and Esther Kazosi, who spoke on behalf of the residents retaliated that the tycoon, who has since died, rented some cashew nut trees within the shamba but later decided to fence it to prevent thieves from picking nuts from the shamba.
“He only bought quarter an acre of land to build a scrap metal yard, but later rented cashew nut trees from our forefathers and used deceit to fence off the land ostensibly to prevent thieves from collecting nuts from the farm,” claimed Mr. Chengo.
On his part, Mr. Gona said that senior police and criminal investigation officers were intimidating innocent wananchi by constantly sending police officers to harass them.
“This is our ancestral land. This is where we buried our forefathers and we have been living here. The Asian used dubious means to acquire this land because he has spent a lot of money to bribe senior government officers to acquire and protect it,” he said.
Gona said the tycoon had, apart from using the police, also hired goons from Kilifi and Mayungu to terrorize the residents with a view to forcefully evicting them from the land.
Kazosi claimed that even elected political leaders had failed to assist the residents, despite the fact that they know the land belongs to the residents.
But Malindi Deputy County Commissioner Thuo Ngugi refuted the residents’ claims, saying the land was private and that the officers were executing a court order.
Mr. Ngugi, who is the chairman of the Sub County Security and Intelligence Committee, told journalists in his office that the land had been bare and that a few people had invaded and subdivided it for sale at very low prices.
“What is happening is that, that is private land which some people have invaded and subdivided yet the owner has a title deed after legally acquiring it,” he said adding, “We are implementing a court order and we ask the residents to obey court orders.”
By Emmanuel Masha