The residents of Hawe Wanje village of Magarini constituency, Kilifi County held a peaceful demonstration Wednesday to protest against irregular sale of community land in the area.
The residents from the Giriama, Watta and Orma communities, who claimed to have lived harmoniously in the area for decades accused local administrators of being behind recent sale of 400 acres of land to a tycoon at a throw away price without involving the community.
Waving twigs and chanting slogans, the villagers marched around a portion of land cleared by a wealthy businessman who had started clearing part of the 400 acres she had allegedly bought within the community land that is yet to be adjudicated.
They accused a local administrator who they claimed was working in cohorts with unscrupulous villagers to sell huge chunks of land to tycoons from other parts of the country at a pittance and called for a stop to the wanton land theft.
Another tycoon, they claimed, was allocated land by the defunct Kilifi County Council more than a decade ago without the knowledge of the community.
The villagers claimed that their land was slowly being taken away from them in anticipation of a land adjudication exercise, so that non locals could be allocated the land and deny the genuine residents the right to own their ancestral land.
The residents however vowed to resist any attempts to dispossess them of their land and asked the National Government Administration in Kilifi County led by County Commissioner Kutswa Olaka to intervene.
Mohamed Koticha Said, a resident, said efforts to get assistance from the local administrative officers had yielded to nought as they (administrator) were complicit in the matter.
He claimed that the administrator was trying to drive a wedge between the three communities by claiming that the land belongs to one of the communities, yet he knows that all the three communities have lived in the area for a long time.
“The administrator is the one who is aiding the land grabbers because we have been seeking justice for a long time but our efforts have been fruitless because of lack of support from him,” he claimed.
Five people are reportedly in police custody after the lady who bought the 400 acres complained that she had been fooled to think that the land belonged to them (suspects).
Mwambegu Karisa Kahindi a village elder of Hawe Wanje phase one said cases of land grabbing are not new because previously there was a leader who claimed there was a project underway that led to the grabbing of more than 7200 acres in Kisiki area which is occupied by over 2000 residents.
He said all the residents have turned out to be squatters and others will be evicted before the end of this year despite the fact that they invested in the land.
”I ganged up with the community and ensured the tycoon is out of site until the dispute is resolved and we do not expect him back again,” he said.
He appealed to the government to ensure the land is surveyed and subdivided so that the community gets land ownership documents to safeguard the land.
“We urge the government to hear our plight and ensure the tycoons who grabbed the land surrender the titles and the land is sub divided to the people,” he said.
Yakub Hussein village elder from Myeye said that the trend of selling community land is wrong because soon the locals will not have a place to live.
81-year old Kaungu Nyale said he was shocked to hear that there are 400 acres which were sold by five individuals having lived there since he was born in 1940.
He said they have been coexisting peacefully with the Orma since 2000 and called on the government to ensure they survey the land and subdivide it to them.
“If there was a title deed here for the community it would be difficult for people to grab land. Let the government come and survey and allocate the land to the community,” he said.
Contacted for comment Cakama Chief Macdonald Mwaringa dismissed claims that he was behind a scheme to help a few people sell community land.
He however defended the five people in police custody saying the land belonged to them and that he had only been involved in confirming that position.
He said members of the Orma community came to the area in the year 2000 and agreed with their hosts to graze their animals at an annual fee, which they initially paid.
The pastoralists initially agreed with officials of the Matolani Ranching Group to lease the land at Sh100,000 per year but they paid Sh40,000 during the first year. In the following year, they were unable to pay and a Somali national assisted them to pay Sh70,000 to the ranching group, he explained over the phone.
by Emmanuel Masha