Saturday, February 16, 2008

90 per cent of Lamu residents lack title deeds


About 90 per cent of Lamu District residents do not have title deeds or letters of allotment to the land they occupy, an NGO official has said.

The district has an estimated population of 120,000, living in Lamu West and East constituencies.

The programme officer of the Mazingira Institute-Operation Firimbi in Lamu, Mr Omar Shahbal said only 3,000 inhabitants of Shella and Lamu town hold titles to their land.

Another 30 per cent of the squatters living in the four settlement schemes in the west mainland possess plain letter of offers or allotments.

Mr Shahbal, who is involved in land issues on behalf the residents, is part of a group of people who have filed a number of court cases seeking nullification of irregular land allocations in the region.

A survey by the NGO shows that 60 per cent of land is in the hands of senior district civil servants, politicians and Kanu officials. They own most of the land at Manda, Ras Kitau, Kiwayuu and in the settlement schemes at Witu, Hindi and Magogoni.

Most residents who mainly comprise the Bajuni community are regarded as squatters as they do not hold title deeds to their land.

The acquisition of the plots by a few well-connected individuals is due to their inclusion in the district plots allocation committee and political patronage.

The acquisition of the plots is usually followed by quick sale for fear of losing the allocation in the event of the beneficiary falling out of favour with the establishment.

Eighty per cent of the land in the district remains crown land and residents are opposed to its status changing to trust land as it would become easier for the politically-correct people to acquire the land illegally.

In Shella village, a tourist resort town south of Lamu, there are more than 300 indigenous residents whose land and residential plots, cemeteries, boreholes and playfields have been allocated to civic leaders and MPs through the district plots allocation committee.

Over the years, over 3,600 acres of prime beach land in Manda Island has been allocated to Kanu officials.

The trend started with the acquisition of an eight-acre plot owned by Mr Mohamed Abubakar bin Ibrahim Muhoma, a local farmer who has lived at Manda for over 60 years.

The plot was later sold to a prominent Mombasa entrepreneur.

Between 1992 and 1998, a local civic leader is said to have acquired 54 plots at Manda, while a former Lamu East MP used his influence to get 17 plots.

Another former MP from Lamu West is said to have acquired 34 plots in Manda, Lamu, Pate, Faza, Siu, Kiwayuu, Mkokoni, Shella and Kiunga divisions.

At least 70 per cent of the land has been illegally acquired by local leaders.

The people considered the rightful owners of land at Manda are some 1,600 indigenous Bajuni residents who remain landless and are squatters.

In October, 1983, a Kenya Gazette notice ordered the District Commissioner to ensure that the Bajuni's displaced by banditry attacks were issued with land ownership forms to enable them seek compensation.

The government directive raised hope among the Bajuni people that they would claim their ancestral land. They also hoped that this would later be followed by the issuance of certificates and title deeds by the Ministry of Lands and Settlement.

However, the Bajuni representatives say the prime land and beach plots were allocated to outsiders, senior government officials and politicians, ignoring the community.

Over 30,00 acres of land have been allocated to various connected individuals in Mpeketoni, Faza, Kiunga, Mnazi Mmoja and Witu.

Last year, Lamu residents went to court over the allocation of a part of the exotic island of Manda to a German investor.

In the suit presented before High Court judge Andrew Hayanga, the group protested against a decision by the Commissioner of Lands and the Lamu County Council to allocate the land to the foreigner.

In June last year, the then District Commissioner, Mr Daudi Ekuam, said the government would spend Sh50 million to settle people in the newly-created Hindi-Magogoni settlement scheme.

The DC added that the government had used Sh321 million since 1991 to settle landless people in settlement schemes.

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Kibaki must be held responsible for the bloodshed. ECK has no excuse, they too can be charged for complicity to commit genocide. Those who are looking at the tribal hatred and murder might be naive to try to blame Raila, but the truth is Kibaki number 2, must be stopped by any means necessary. The signs are very clear, "A Tribal Dictatorship." Kenyans had no problem in the last election when Kibaki, a Kikuyu ran against Uhuru, another Kikuyu. It is time for Kikuyus to stand up and smell the chai. Kikuyus are the poorest and the most oppressed. Shoot to Kill has always been used against Kikuyus "Del Monte." The only matatus that must go to the police station for a strip search, are the ones going to Kikuyuland. There are more Kikuyus in prison than any other group. Kikuyus just like they rejected Uhuru and what he stood for, can reject Kibaki for trying to bring back the KANU type dictatorship. Raila and Luos should also be very careful when making statements about the election. Kenyans did not vote for Raila the Luo; Kenyans voted for Raila the ODM nominee.