• Committee chairman Mwangi Githiomi ordered the Lands ministry and NLC officials to halt any activities on land under investigation.
• The residents and Prison Services department have differed on the ownership of a 10-acre piece of land.
A Senate committee has assured victims of land injustices in Taita Taveta that they will get justice.
The Lands, Environment and Natural Resources committee, which is on a tour of the county to meet residents and hear their petitions, was told that the police often harassed occupants of Ore estate in Voi.
Ore residents have differed with the Kenya Prison Services department over the ownership of a 10-acre piece of land.
“Police have been harassing people living here. They want us to leave our homes claiming that we are living on government plots. Our forefathers lived here and nobody can move us from our ancestral land,” Juma Mwambogha, a resident, said.
More than 300 people who met the parliamentary team said their community had lived on the land since 1900.
Committee chairman Mwangi Githiomi told the Lands ministry and the National Land Commission to halt any activities on contested land until the committee makes its recommendations.
Human rights activist Hajji Mwakio asked the commission to recommend the reduction of the number of prisons in the county to two, saying that the department was an easy target of land grabbers.
“Why do we have four prisons in this county while the majority of those serving jail terms there are people from other counties? Furthermore, more land is being allocated to expand the facilities,” Mwakio complained.
Taita Taveta Senator Jones Mwaruma urged the land commission to return to the community two pieces of land owned by prison department at Sophia and Maktau.
Mwaruma, who is a member of the committee, said the department had illegally acquired the plots.
The senator stressed the importance of issuing title deeds to squatters as lack of ownership documents had negatively affected development.
At Mkamenyi in Voi constituency, the committee was petitioned over the status of Voi Sisal Estate.
The committee sought to know among other things the details pertaining to the ownership, lease, acreage and the section of the disputed land.
Squatters claim that the estate is their ancestral land.
The management has renewed the ownership lease.
“We are happy that the Senate committee has finally intervened. We will never accept anybody to take our land unfairly annexed by the Voi Sisal Estate. Mkamenyi land should not be subdivided and sold as part of the vast sisal farm,” George Mwanjala, the chairman of Mkamenyi Cooperative Society, said.
Mwanjala said Mkamenyi residents lived in abject poverty although mega projects crisscrossed their land.
He lamented, “Ketraco and the Standard Gauge Railway have compensated the sisal estate with hundreds of millions (of shillings) while Mkamenyi residents received nothing for their ancestral land. People should be compensated for forceful eviction.”
Mwanjala said land speculators were fraudulently acquiring plots to get compensation from the government for its mega-projects like SGR.
The committee also heard compensation had not been paid to those who lost land after it was compulsorily acquired for the construction of the Mwatate–Taveta–Holili road in 2014.
Timothy Mwazo said NLC had also not compensated them for land and houses demolished to pave the way for the road linking Kenya with Tanzania.
“We have visited NLC 11 times in vain. We have been reduced to beggars since all our land was taken by the government.” Mwazo told the committee at Mwatate CDF Hall.
Committee’s vice chairperson Prengei Victor said they will summon NLC, Lands Cabinet Secretary, and National Treasury officials over the compensation claims.
He said the NLC should submit to the committee a full list of people compensated by the commission in Taita Taveta county.
The Kenya National Highway Authority was asked to conduct fresh land valuation and forward payment recommendations to NLC.
The committee has also been petitioned on the ownership of Mgheno Land Reserve in Mwatate, and iron ore mining in Kishushe, Wundanyi. It is also petitioned on Ikanga Airstrip in Voi .
(Edited by O. Owino)