Over 4,000 squatters who live within Kakuzi land in Murang’a County have narrated painful experiences of being forced to bury their dead secretly at night out of fear of ruthless attacks from the company’s guards.
During a meeting with Muranga land officials in Kinyangi village, the squatters disclosed that they dig the graves at night and only close family members attend the ceremony silently to avoid raising suspicion from the company.
Julia Njoki (65) claimed that before, they would borrow a place to bury the dead from a Catholic priest compound nearby but since he has been transferred, the new priest does not allow it.
“We cannot take them to the mortuary as the guards are always on the roads tracking us. The option is to keep the body till night and secretly bury it. The company cannot even set a square inch of their land for residents as a burial site,” she said.
They cannot also repair their dilapidated mud-walled houses once they collapse during the rainy season.
Mary Wanjiku (80) and a mother of three said if they are found cutting trees to repair their houses, they are arrested and locked in police cells.
“They would rather we get rained on and sleep in the cold than allow us to repair our houses. We live like prisoners here,” said Wanjiku.
The company has continued to deny these accusations and injustices saying resettlement of the squatters laid with the government, not the company.
What pains the residents is that the company surrendered more than 2,000 acres of land to the government for resettlement and other amenities in the 1970’s, but it is still holding on to the land.
“Recently, they planted trees on part of the land that they surrendered, raising eyebrows from the residents,” said their chairman Murigi Njogu.
Murigi said if Kakuzi continued to develop the land, they would petition the government to resurvey and chop off the land that they surrendered, as well as withhold renewal of leases for the company.
He also called on the government to hasten processes to resettle them in the surrendered land to end the many injustices meted on them by the food processing multinational Company.
“The original squatters were about 400, but the number has risen to over 4,000. If the government delays the process further, then the number may rise further to over 10,000 squatters which the government may find difficult to resettle,” said Mwirigi.
The land officials assured that the process of surveys and resettlement was on course and soon, they will get their title deeds.
Kakuzi/Ithanga Deputy County Commissioner Angela Makau assured the residents to be patient and peaceful as the government was doing everything possible to process their title deeds.
By Muoki Charles