Saturday, Nov 01st 2014

Missing Paragraphs In The TJRC Report On The Land Question

Monday, June 3, 2013 - 00:00 -- BY PROF RON SLY, BERHANU DINKA AND JUDGE GERTRUDE CHAWATAMA

203. In addition, there were peculiar cases of land grabbing and related malpractices during Kenyatta’s administration which serve to illustrate how deeply the problem of land grabbing had cut into Kenya and the wanton manner in which key government officials, including the president grabbed what should have been public or communal land and “dished” it to relatives. A case in point involves the president himself. When Kenyatta’s son, Muigai, married Isaiah Mathenge’s daughter in 1976, Kenyatta’s wedding gift was a large tract of government land which was, apparently, acquired without official approval and without compliance with legal procedures.

227. The foregoing statement discloses the potential danger of violent conflicts by Kenyans whose government has not only committed atrocities against, but has also failed over the years to recognize their plight and redress them. In light of secessionist movement inclinations manifested by the MRC at the Coast, any honest view that a community in Kenya would be better off with colonialists should be carefully addressed to avert the possibility of more secessionist movements that may be facilitated by the current establishment of regional governments across the country.

230. In Taita Taveta District, many coastal families and communities settled, at independence, on what they believed to be government land, hoping that the government would officially resettle them on it. However, in 1972, the Greek Criticos family, in partnership with the then President Kenyatta himself, acquired the land to establish sisal plantations, leaving many families living on the land as ‘squatters’. A letter from Basil Criticos, a senior member of the family, dated 25 November 2011 indicates that the Criticos family, alone, owned 30 000 acres of land next to a bigger parcel of land owned by the Kenyatta family. This meant no one could construct a permanent building or enclose land to signify exclusive occupation and/or use, generating another source of long running conflicts over access to, ownership and use of land involving not only the Taita and other coastal communities, but those from upcountry who had settled on large farms as farm workers.

231. Apparently over time, especially between 1996 and 2003, the Criticos family offered a substantial proportion of the 30,000 acres of land to the government for purchase at low rate of only KSh600 per acre to settle landless squatters. However, after acquiring the land, the government, in its usual style of irregularity, began to settle people from upcountry, especially the Kamba and not the coastal communities that the land was meant for. The Criticos familyfurther offered to sell land at concessionary rates to landless communities from the Coast and from upcountry, including those from Nyanza who had settled on the land as farm workers but the family’s efforts were thwarted by the government which, through the provincial administration, forcibly evicted the Criticos family from the whole parcel of land and began to irregularly settle people on it. By 2008, the Criticos family’s efforts to give up a large portion of the land for resettlement of the landless appears to have been completely disrupted, to a halt, as a result if illegal dealings with the land on orders of the then President, supplemented by support of the local MP and the Ministry of Lands and Settlement.

257. However, after Kenya attained independence, in 1972, President Kenyatta unlawfully alienated to himself 250 acres of the land, especially portions on the beach. He also allocated part of the land to his friends, relatives and other associates. He directed residents that whatever was left of the trust lands would be established as settlement schemes for their benefit. However, without following due procedures of law, he again took part of whatever remained for himself and his relatives. He also demanded that local communities that should have benefited from the trust lands accept payment of KSh600 per acre. When the locals declined to accept the money, he told them that whether or not they accepted it, the remainder of the trust lands would go to the government. That is how irregularly President Kenyatta took all of Tiwi and Diani trust lands at the expense of local people who immediately became ‘squatters’ on the land and were subsequently evicted, rendering them landless and poor. By 2012, land in the former trust lands fetched KSh15 million per acre.

261. Since Kenyatta’s administration, settlement schemes at the Coast have been fraught with irregularities, outright discrimination of landless coastal communities, settlement of mainly one upcountry community on coastal communities’ lands, land grabbing by high and low ranking government officials and fraud. It emerges that the real intention of settlement schemes at the Coast, especially in the period immediately after independence, was to settle mainly the Kikuyu tribe on ancestral lands of coastal communities. As a result, many members of coastal communities who lost their land during colonialism remain landless, poor and, in many cases, destitute, their means of livelihood having been forcefully taken away, as described below.