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MPs support Kamiti squatters in row with KFS over 419 acres valued Sh12 billion

Parcel measuring 419 acres and estimated to cost Sh12 billion has pitted KFS and squatters for 23 years

National Land Commission Chairman Muhamed Swazuri is shown a grave at the Kamiti/Anmer land by Mr Kinyanjui Macharia, the chairman of Kamiti Development Association, one of the groups claiming ownership of the land

The National Assembly has moved to solve a protracted land dispute in Kiambu that has raged between squatters and KFS for more than two decades.

Several groups of squatters and the Kenya Forest Service have been battling over the Kamiti/Anmer parcel measuring 419 acres for the last 23 years. It is estimated to be worth Sh12 billion. 

Kamiti Anmer Development Association, Kamiti Forest Squatters Association (Kafsa), Muungano Wa Kamiti Society and Kamiti Anmer Squatters Welfare Group all claim the land.

The squatters claim they were allocated the land by the government in 1992 while KFS has maintained the land belongs to them since it has never been de-gazetted from being a forest.

The National Assembly Land committee headed by Kitui South MP Rachel Nyamai toured the expansive farm on a fact-finding mission.

The visit came after Kafsa several months ago petitioned Parliament to order their permanent settlement on the prime land. 

They told Parliament the government allocated them the land after they were displaced from their homes in the 1992 clashes.

TWO-DECADE DISPUTE: The National Assembly Land Committee headed by Kitui South MP Rachel Nyamai during the committee’s tour at the Kamiti Anmer farm

The squatters asked Parliament to order KFS off the land and allow them to settle on it permanently.

Kafsa chairman Njoroge Wakaba had asked the committee to help resolve the dispute.

The group told the committee that even a directive was issued by then Central Provincial Commissioner to the defunct Kiambu County Council in 1994 to have them settled on the land. 

“It is unfortunate the directive by the PC opened an opportunity for individuals to start allocating themselves our land. This was done irregularly. It is also denied us the right to occupy the land,” Wakaba said.

During the Friday meeting at Kamiti Anmer Primary School, the committee collected views from the squatters.

Among the committee members present were MPs Nyamai, Simon King’ara (Ruiru), George Sunkuyia (Kajiado West) Joshua Kuttuny (Cherangany), Catherine Waruguru (Laikipia Woman Representative) and Jude Njomo (Kiambu town). 

Prior to the meeting, the committee held deliberations with officials from KFS, National Land Commission and county security committee at the county commissioner’s office in Kiambu town. 

Developments on land 

PMG Kamau, the former town clerk of the defunct Kiambu County Council, told the committee that the government gave the land to squatters in 1994 after former Githunguri MP Arthur Magugu made an appeal on their behalf.

He tabled a confidential letter among other documents showing that the government directed that 300 acres be allocated to the squatters. 

The letter dated December 5, 1994, written by then Central Province Provincial Commissioner Victor Musoga, shows the government okayed the de-gazettement of the forest.

“I have looked into the matter (de-gazettement of Kamiti Forest) and considered the historical background and I have concluded that for now, we shall allow the Kiambu County Council 300 acres in Kamiti Forest. Please remind the council that settlement of forest squatters will take priority over anything else,” the letter reads.

Representatives of the squatters Benson Muiruri, Peter Mwaura, Njoroge Wakaba and James Kinuthia pleaded with the committee to intervene and ensure they are given titles for the land.

Massive development activities have already taken place on the disputed land with churches, schools and residential houses having already been built.

More than 100 people have already been buried in the five-acre cemetery. Piped water and electricity have also been connected to the homes.

Kajiado West’s Sankuyia said the committee would sit down with KFS and come up with an amicable solution to the matter.

“We will stand with the people. There is no way we will sit and say that schools, churches and houses that have already been built on the land be demolished,” he said.

King’ara told the groups to unite and pursue for the ownership of the land as one entity.

“As things stand, the land still belongs to the government. You must, therefore, all unite and be one group in order to pursue the land while united,” the Ruiru MP said. 

Njomo said the people should be given the first priority, adding there was still room to rectify a technicality that was never followed in the past.

Nyamai said the committee will look at the submissions by the squatters and other relevant government bodies and come up with a report.

 “We will give our verdict in due course. We will try to see if it is possible to bring the matter to an end. I also advise the groups that there is no need for infighting and they should come together as one,” the Land committee chairperson said.

Paid to county council 

NLC, in a letter dated October 15, 2015 to the Director of KFS, sided with the squatters.

They said from their investigations, letters of allotment were issued by the defunct county council and payments made to the council by the allottees.

The letter signed by commissioner Emma Njogu on behalf of then chairman Mohammad Swazuri indicated that letters of allotment were issued by the Commissioner of Lands and payment confirmed by that office.

It also indicates that leases were processed and executed by the commissioner of lands and registered by the Chief Land Registrar.

 “Arising from the foregoing, it is now evident that Kamiti/Anmer allocation was done legally and procedurally and it followed a proper consultative process with the only omission being de-gazettement by the Minister of Environment and Natural Resources,” the letter reads.

It adds, “This cannot be deemed to have affected the legality of these allocations bearing in mind evidence of your concurrence, the court judgment and the impeccable process followed in the allocation of the land.” 

– www.the-star.co.ke

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