After living in colonial villages in Central Kenya for more than 50 years, thousands of families can now smile after their desire to have title deeds to their plots comes to fruition.
The government has surveyed 151 colonial villages and subsequently issued 6,318 title deeds to plot owners.
Another 1,056 tittle deeds are being processed while 523 are pending to be issued.
And like any land matters in Kenya, 301 plots are in dispute and efforts to resolve the issue is under arbitration under the aegis of the county government of Nyeri and the national government.
The issuance of the titles to the families residing in the villages which were set up by the British colonial government to house thousands of locals disfranchised off their prime agricultural land by settlers brings down the curtain to one of the most heartbreaking stories of colonial legacy in modern Kenya.
The colonialists in their unbridled thirst to acquire fertile land for farming set up about 840 villages across the central region with Nyeri County being home to 220 of the villages. They also introduced special passes to control the movement of people from one village to the other.
For close to half a century, generations of the displaced have been leading heart wrecking life occupying pieces of land on which they could neither built permanent houses nor grow cash crops like tea or coffee since they could not prove ownership.
But thanks to a Presidential directive back in 2017, the villagers are set to be liberated from the ‘yokes bequeathed’ on them by colonialists since the government has started to hand over to them the much awaited land ownership documents.
The road towards getting the vital land documents for the villagers has been bumpy, slow and painful and it took the intervention of President Uhuru Kenyatta to finally bring to a close the dark chapter of colonial legacy crafted by wily white settlers between 1900 and 1950’s with the aim of compulsorily acquiring prime land from the locals.
Nyeri County Commissioner David Kipkemei is upbeat that the exercise will be concluded seamlessly in order to allow the villagers enjoy land rights which they have been denied until now.
The administrator said the process has been fast tracked adding that the National Land Commission (NLC) has been looped in to assist in resolving the disputes holding back the completion of the titling exercise.
Kipkemei says that the villagers will now be able to construct permanent houses on their pieces of land and be able to lead a dignified life like other Kenyans.
He regretted that the process of settling the villagers had taken so long but assured them that the government will go an extra mile to ensure that any issues related to their welfare are handled expeditiously.
The issuance of tittle deeds to the villagers had eluded three former Presidents with the occupants unsuccessfully demanding that their villages be surveyed and title deeds be issued to them, after efforts to have them resettled to their ancestral or alternative land proved futile.
They were living in squalid conditions, congestion being the norm to an extent of having no land to bury their dead.
By Kiamah Wamutitu