Squatters in Kamiti Forest in Kiambu are suffering because State House failed to communicate to the Lands ministry in writing that President Daniel Moi verbally directed the IDPs be settled there.
Lands Cabinet Secretary Farida Karoney on Tuesday told MPs that the failure to make the written communication made it impossible for her ministry to de-gazette the 419-acre forest to resettle the squatters.
The CS said the 419 acres are still public forest land, despite Moi directing that 300 acres be hived off for resettlement.
The announcement deals a blow to the more than 1,000 squatters, 149 of them already holding titles for the parcel. They have fought for nearly 25 years to own the land.
Most were victims of the post-election violence that followed the 1992 multi-party elections.
“The normal procedure is that when the President makes verbal orders, it is followed immediately by a written communication by the Head of Public Service. That did not happen,” she said.
The CS was responding to questions by the National Assembly’s Lands Committee that has been probing circumstances that led to the allocation of the land, following a petition by squatters saying there’s a plot to kick them out of the parcel.
“Kamiti Forest is yet to be degazetted and any allocations of the LR No. 8390/Kamiti/Amner Block 2 would have to be preceded by degazetting as provided under Section 34 of the Forest Conservation and Management Act, 2016,” Karoney said.
Karoney told the Racheal Nyamai-led Land panel that any person having a title deed to part of the land is holding an illegal document because the issuance of it was irregular.
“As a Ministry we hold the view that the titles that were issued in respect to the Kamiti Amner land were irregularly awarded and therefore illegal documents. At the time of the issuance, the land had not been degazetted,” Karoney said.
“The 149 titled parcels fall within the boundaries of the Kamiti Forest Reserve. The Forest was not degazetted to make it available for allocation pursuant to the then procures laid out under the Forest Act. There have been consultative processes within government towards de-gazettement, but the legal procedure for excision of a public forest has never been followed,” she added.
Environment CAS Mohamed Elmi who also appeared before the committee said that politically driven agitation and poor law enforcement by the then Forest Department made it hard for the government to reclaim the land.
The Kamiti/Anmer 419 acres has been at the centre of a protracted battle over ownership, which is currently being claimed by five groups.
Of the 419 acres, the Kanu administration directed that 300 acres be hived from the parcel and allocated to the squatters who were victims of Post-Election Violence in Rift Valley in 1992 and landless in the area in 1994.
The five groups are the Kamiti Forest Squatters Association, the Muungano wa Kamiti Group, Kamiti Anmer Development Welfare Group, the Kenya Forest Service and Kamiti Development Association. They are using alternative dispute resolution mechanism to benefit from the land.