The government has moved to quell the tension in the Vipingo area of Kilifi after thousands of squatters invaded a parcel of land that is currently in dispute.
A multi-sectoral team comprising national and county government officers and the community has been set up.
The committee, which will be chaired by Kilifi county commissioner Josphat Biwot seeks to establish the where about of title deeds to the parcels of land whose lease, had expired.
Speaking in his office on Tuesday after meeting representatives of the squatters, Biwott said the government is committed to addressing the matter once and for all.
“This matter has been here for quite some time now. We want to establish where these titles are and investigate all the other titles in that disputed area. The residents have a genuine concern. If the government gave the land for squatters to be resettled I don’t know where these other things are coming from,” said Biwott
He called on the squatters to leave the land as they look for a permanent solution.
“These people have a genuine title deed issued by the government. The other people who claim to own the land have not contested the title in court. The ministry should be able to shade light on any anomarly on the title,” he added
The land in question is 663 which measures 800 acres.
Chasimba ward representative Kazungu Mbura and his Junju counterpart Said Juma applauded the move by the county commissioner to bring all parties on board to address the matter within the next two weeks.
“Our title is genuine and we followed the procedure to acquire it. We are ready to cooperate with the government to make sure we address this matter,” said Mbura
The community will be represented by the Bambani and Mjuma community-based organizations.
Bambani/Mjuma cbo spokesperson Wycliff Mwangome narrated how the community managed to secure the title deed for the dispute.
Mwangome said the residents were waiting for the subdivision of the land but had to invade it after one of the parties placed an obstruction on their title.
“I received a letter which I cannot ascertain its authenticity that someone had requested to have our title revoked. I received another later purported to have been sent by the Cabinet secretary for land revoking our title. All these raised eyebrows because they were done unprocedurally,” said Mwangome
Biwott assured the residents that no individual could revoke a title apart from the land and environmental court.
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The locals also demanded Centum Limited to honour a memorandum of understanding the company entered with the community in 2016.
“In 2016 Centum through its subsidiary Vipingo Development Limited entered an MOU with us to facilitate the issuance of titles to seven villages with Vipingo sisal farm. They also agreed to build a polytechnic where they would train human resources for their upcoming vipingo city project. They were also to issue scholarships to bright and needy students from the area. They were to do this within six months but nothing happened to date,” said Nicholas Wanyepe, a land rights activist in the area
Wanyepe warned that if the developer will continue pushing the community, they will invade all the parcels of land owned by the investor.
Wanyepe said the disputed land was supposed to be subdivided at the beginning of this year.
”Vipingo Sisal Estate lease expired and followed the procedure to apply to have our ancestral land back. We were issued with the title deed for 800 acres of the land from the Ministry of Lands,” he said.
The certificate of title deed shows the document was issued on December 13 last year.
Wanyepe said the county government of Kilifi, which was supposed to facilitate the subdivision, has not done so.
At the same time, Mwalimu Rasi who is the chair of the elders of the Wachonyi community has blamed the political leaders for keeping away from the fight for their land.
Similarly, Sheria na Haki director general Etor Karani, appeared to disagree with the decision, but insisted that they are on the lookout to ensure that the locals get justice.
“Some years back a title deed for 3, 911 acres was issued to the community but it was later revoked. The community appealed the decision and the case is pending in court. I am worried a similar thing may happen,” said Karani