INSATIABLE APPETITE

Thika residents raise alarm over plan to grab cemetery land

In Summary

• Thika cemetery land on the verge of being grabbed.

• Politician accused of being behind the plot.

A Thika town resident erect a warning sign on a land that was on the verge of being grabbed in Section 9 Estate within Thika town.
A Thika town resident erect a warning sign on a land that was on the verge of being grabbed in Section 9 Estate within Thika town.
Image: JOHN KAMAU

Thika residents have blown the whistle over an alleged plan to grab a cemetery land in the town.

Residents claim a politician is behind the plan to grab the land.

There is a growing appetite for public land as notorious land grabbers seek to satisfy their greed.

The grabbers, who are working in cahoots with unscrupulous Lands officials, have been a thorn in the flesh of Thika residents for years. They have grabbed public spaces meant for construction of schools, markets, hospitals those allocated to squatters.

Residents raised the alarm after grabbers brought in construction materials at the cemetery land and started digging the foundation. The cemetery is used by both Muslims and Christians.

The residents accused a politician of being behind the plot to grab the land. They said the grabbers are perpetrating their illegal activities under the guise of building a perimeter wall to secure the cemetery land.

“We are privy to credible information that the politician behind it wants to construct business stalls on the cemetery land and rent them out. He’s known for his insatiable appetite for public land, and we won’t let him and his cronies invade the cemetery,” resident Peter Kioni said.

Staff from the office of area MP Patrick Wainaina intervened and led residents to refill the trenches with soil.

They vowed to thwart any attempts to grab the land.

“The dead in this public cemetery should be left to rest in peace. Hiving off any part of the cemetery land is an abomination. We will repulse the grabbers with full force,” resident John Mwangi said.

 

He said some unscrupulous leaders have mapped out all public spaces in Thika constituency with an aim of grabbing them.

Late last year MP Wainaina’s workers thwarted an attempt to grab a five-acre piece belonging to Heshima Kiboko Primary School. The grabbers had subdivided and erected bacons on the parcel.

A number of leaders have also raised concerns over the high rate of land grabbing. MCAs Andrew Kimani (Township ward) and his Kamenu counterpart Raphael Chege have threatened to mobilise residents to invade and recover stolen public land.

The MCAs said the gluttonous grabbers have been working in cahoots with  corrupt county officials who go round the region identifying public spaces that have not been developed.

Chege said two acres set for construction of a public school in Kisii Estate have been grabbed. 

“The grabbers should stand warned that we will give them no space to conduct their illegal activities on a public land. We don’t care what offices they have gone to process documents for the piece of land. I will mobilise residents and fence it off,” the MCA said.

Chege said the school was to save residents kids from the agony of trekking for long distances to learning institutions.

Kimani said legal redress will be sought to recover stolen land and ward off grabbers who are known.

He said a famous individual has grabbed and fenced off a parcel of land located at a prime location in Thika town.

“We know who have fenced that land with intent to grab it. We will, however, storm the area and bring down the fence because we must protect what rightfully belong to the public,” Kimani said.

Recently Kiambu Governor Ferdinand Waititu led Thika residents in reclaiming  100 acres of grabbed land within Thika Municipality

Waititu, who has sought the EACC's help to recover stolen public land, said the  grabbers have wreaked havoc in towns across the county and irregularly acquired public and community land.

Waititu said his administration has prepared a document detailing parcels of land that have been illegally acquired and details of the individuals behind the corrupt deals. He said the county will soon present the document to the Ethics and Anti Corruption Commission.

“Land grabbers have illegally acquired huge tracts of land. We plead with the EACC to help us recover the parcels that have been grabbed,” the county boss said.

Using bulldozers and crowbars, they pulled down perimeter walls in Maasai village and Kiang'ombe areas.

Residents had earlier told the governor the grabbed land was part of 360 acres meant to resettle squatters in Kiang'ombe and Maasai villages and build schools.

Waititu who supervised the demolition said the land will revert to the intended purpose. "As a county government we shall not allow individuals to steal public land,” he said.

Residents welcomed the governor’s intervention and asked the government to  secure the land and build schools, hospitals and other amenities on the site.

"This will enable us to build schools, health centres and other social amenities which have been lacking," squatter Margaret Wangari said.

Ibrahim Woche, the chairman of the more than 2,000 Maasai village squatters, said the group had written to the National Land Commission, seeking to be settled on the land.

He said the cartel was using an outlawed gang to demolish their houses claiming they had bought the government land.

“We have been living in agony as local government officials, including the security and administration, turned a deaf ear to our complaints,” Woche said.

This comes a month after Lands CAS Gideon Mung’aro met members of the two villages who had reported to the Senate Lands Committee the annexing of land set aside to resettle them.

“The ministry is particularly concerned by the many cases of theft of public land reported in Thika, Ruiru and other areas.We are telling those behind these schemes that it is only a matter of time before catch up with them,” the CAS had said. He announced an overhaul of all clerks in the ministry.

Earlier, Mung’aro said besides the transfers, any officer found to have been involved in irregular land deals will be suspended and legal action taken against them.

Last month the ministry transferred more than 600 officers in Lands Registries in the wake of a probe into their role in the theft of public land.

Milkah Wangui, the Kiang’ombe squatters chairperson said the more than 500 families were allocated the land 15 years ago, but are yet to be issued with titles for the 40x80 plots.