Squatters residing on land earmarked for the expansion of the Malindi International Airport are still a thorn in the government’s flesh almost 15 years after the expansion plan was mooted.
Although Kenya Airports Authority (KAA) has acquired an additional 25 hectares of land after spending Sh418 million to compensate squatters in the first phase of its resettlement plan, it is still grappling with the presence of squatters on its land along the flight path and a private parcel of land earmarked for the extension of the main runway.
Airport Manager Mohamed Karama told the Kilifi County Development Implementation Committee (CDICC) Wednesday that although the land along the flight path across the Malindi-Mombasa Highway to the south of the airport belongs to KAA, the High Court directed the authority to compensate the squatters or relocate them.
An evaluation carried out by the National Land Commission in 2017 approved a compensation package of Sh700 million, which KAA is still waiting to be disbursed by the National Treasury, Mr. Karama said.
“We gave the squatters notice but they took KAA to court, which ruled that we should compensate them,” he said. “The NLC carried out an evaluation in 2017 and approved a figure of Sh700 million, which we will have to pay despite the land belonging to us.”
He said a group of only 25 people had sued the authority, but due to delays in compensating them following the court decree, the number of squatters is increasing daily a fact that could make the government fork out more money.
But the woes may not end soon as the KAA is still seeking to acquire another 130 hectares of land on the northern side across the Malindi-Sala Gate road to extend the main runway from the current 1.4 kilometres to the 2.5 kilometres recommended for large aircraft.
The land in question belongs to wealthy families in Malindi but it is full of squatters, who the government has to relocate before purchasing the land from the legal owners.
Mr. Karama told the CIDCC during a committee meeting chaired by the Kilifi County Commissioner Magu Mutindika in his boardroom on Wednesday that the government had already allocated Sh1.5 billion to extend the runway.
But a consultant hired to develop a resettlement plan on the private land reportedly terminated the contract on the grounds that the scope of work was beyond expectation.
“KAA has now initiated the process of procuring another consultant to develop a comprehensive resettlement plan after the initial one pulled out saying the scope of work was beyond expectations,” the manager told the meeting.
And as the delay continues, the price of the land is appreciating daily, with the number of squatters on the earmarked land also increasing rapidly. A Kenya News Agency survey revealed that expensive buildings had been constructed on the land earmarked for the runway extension.
Mr. Karama noted that many more squatters were invading the earmarked land on speculation purposes with the belief that those with buildings in the area will get hefty compensations like their counterparts in Kwa Chocha area.
“We have discovered that some of the squatters we compensated in the first phase have bought land on the other side and commenced constructions with a view to benefitting from the impending compensation,” he said.
He called on the committee to liaise with the Kilifi County Government with a view to stopping any new constructions on the earmarked land, while acknowledging that KAA could not stop any developments as the land was still private.
The expansion of the airport is aimed at allowing it to accommodate larger aircraft and handle direct flights from Europe and other international destinations, thus boosting the number of visitors to the tourist resort towns of Malindi, Watamu and Lamu.
Mr. Karama said the government had spent Sh418 million to compensate squatters in the first phase at Kwa Chocha area and was sourcing for more funds to fence off the 25 hectares acquired.
He explained that the National Land Commission (NLC), in the first evaluation done in 2011, had approved a compensation amount of Sh260 million.
This however rose to Sh424 million when the NLC carried out another revaluation in 2017 following delays in disbursement of the initial amount.
“We have now secured all the 25 hectares of land in the first phase except a piece of land belonging to a church organisation,” he said.
He said the church had evidence of ownership and that KAA was in the process of verifying the evidence with a view to compensating the church owners both for the structure and the land.
By Emmanuel Masha