Lamu councillors cry foul over land
A FRESH row over land is brewing in Lamu county after local leaders accused the council and the Lands ministry of plotting to subdivide thousands of acres, without consulting them. Those affected in the alleged subdivision are thousands of acres under the multi-million sugarcase project, Matt International. The project's 27,000 hectares were left for the use of the community, and a further 15,000 hactres in Witu and adjacent areas, covering up to 57,000 hectares.
The leaders, led by the Gurachu ward councilor, Dide Waride, Witu’s Hassan Albeity, Omar Shidao from Kizingitini ward, councilor Omar Shedau of Ndau ward, Hussein Taib, Faza and Yusuf Kitete of Mangai, claimed they were not consulted when the council passed resolutions concerning the lands in question. Also questioning the subdivisions was the Shungwaya Council of Elders, a group that fights land historical injustices in the region. “This is a conspiracy between the lands office and the council, the council has no powers to subdivide any land, many people will be conned, and it was not all inclusive since the Kenya Wildlife Service, Kenya Forest Service, fisheries ministry, veterinary, livestock and agricultural departments, have not been made aware,” said Shungwaya’s official, Mbwana Mohammed.
They insisted that an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), should have been conducted, before surveys by the Physical Development Plan was approved. But in response, Lamu Town Clerk Patrick Ouya said the leaders are not part of the members who sit in the District Development Committee and could have thus not made their contributions, but despite that, they were represented. “When the community complained over government land, it was agreed that they also benefit from the plots, the council does not own any land, and cannot thus subdivide any. Our work was just to liaise with the provincial administration, and establish the areas to be affected,” he added.
He said this, was all in efforts to ensure that the community was saved from land grabbers and encroachment, adding that settlement processes have been ongoing. The leaders accused the local MPs of not siding with the community, and threatened to go to court if the process was not halted. They said the 27,000 hectares was meant for 10 cooperatives in Witu, each cooperative was to receive 3,000 hectares, and was to be inclusive of all residents, whether indigenous or not. “Now we don’t know the new occupants, they are in the process of acquiring though the letters of allotment have been issued, which is against the procedures,” said Albeity.
The former Lamu county chairman also claimed that the procedures for approving such lands, including going through the sub-DDc, 60 days notice and gazettement among others, were not followed.