WELL DISPUTE

Chief, well-wisher feud over well in Majengo

Tononoka assistant chief claims ownership of well drilled over a decade ago by councillor.

In Summary
  • The well was drilled in 2007 on Mzee Hirsi Hassan’s land.
  • Mariam’s father, Mzee Baimu, who was the village elder, offered to pay for the electricity used to pump the water.
Hassan Hirsi and Muhuri rapid response officer Francis Auma at the disputed well in Majengo Msaji on May 20, 2020.
THIS IS IT: Hassan Hirsi and Muhuri rapid response officer Francis Auma at the disputed well in Majengo Msaji on May 20, 2020.
Image: BRIAN OTIENO

Two individuals, one an assistant chief, are fighting over a well in Majengo Msaji, Mvita subcounty.

Tononoka assistant chief Mariam Baimu is claiming ownership of the well drilled more than a decade ago by the then area councillor.

It was drilled in 2007 on Mzee Hirsi Hassan’s land to provide free water to residents.

 

Mariam’s father, Mzee Baimu, who was the village elder, offered to pay for the electricity used to pump the water.

However, the well stopped functioning after Mzee Baimu died about two years ago leaving no one to pay for the electricity.

Hassan Hirsi and Muhuri rapid response officer Francis Auma at the disputed well in Majengo Masji on May 20, 2020.
THIS IS IT: Hassan Hirsi and Muhuri rapid response officer Francis Auma at the disputed well in Majengo Masji on May 20, 2020.
Image: BRIAN OTIENO

Mzee Hirsi and his son, Hassan, revived the project recently.

But the project has run into headwinds after Mariam demanded to be involved in its running.

In a recorded phone conversation between Mzee Hirsi and Mariam, the assistant chief is heard telling him she will block the well.

“Even if the well is on your land, we will block it so that you drill your own well,” Mariam is heard saying.

 

Mzee Hirsi says he allowed the well to be drilled on his land because it was a noble idea to help the residents get free water.

“I gave out the land. Baimu paid for electricity. That is the only thing he donated,” Mzee Hirsi says.

Hassan Hirsi during an interview at Majengo Msaji.
AGGRIEVED: Hassan Hirsi during an interview at Majengo Msaji.
Image: BRIAN OTIENO

Mariam, however, insists the well was given to his father.

“It [well] was given to him. The correct thing to do was to call all of us for talks and not only Omar. That is where you go wrong,” Mariam is heard telling Hirsi.

Omar is Mariam’s brother.

 “We are the ones who asked for the well to be drilled for us so if you don’t want to listen to us, we [will] block it even if it is in your land,” says Mariam.

On Thursday, when the Star called Mariam over the matter, she fainted during the conversation forcing her boss, Tononoka chief Mwinyi Abdulaziz, to take over.

“This is a family matter,” Abdulaziz said.

The Tononoka chief told the Star the owner of the disputed well is Kitsao Mangi Yaa.

“It has been handled and there is no more problem. Kitsao came here personally over the matter to clear the air and free Mariam over the matter,” Abdulaziz said.

Kitsao told the Star the well is his, adding that he drilled it. The claim was refuted by Hassan and Mzee Hirsi.

“I drilled it for him. We gave it as sadaqa [charity]. No one should pay for water or be paid for the well,” Kitsao said.

Kitsao said he talked to Mariam over the matter.

“She had not understood the history of the well. But all has been sorted out now. There is no more problem,” he told the Star.

However, the Hirsis said Kitsao has a well in another part of the area and is not connected in any way to the disputed one.

Majengo chief Mwichande Omar said he was not aware of the matter when contacted by the Star.

However, in a conference call, he told Hassan not to revive the matter.

“That chapter is closed. The problem is over. I am in a meeting. Call me later,” he said.

The area’s Nyumba Kumi ambassador Aisha Ahmed told the Star the matter had been discussed and it was agreed that Mariam was in the wrong.

“We are the ones who live here and know the history. We have been benefitting from the well and if it is closed we will suffer,” Ahmed said.

Khadija Ferunzy, a neighbouring Nyumba Kumi ambassador, said they also draw water from the well and if it is closed many residents will suffer.

“This area has water scarcity problems and that is why we depend on wells like that. The assistant chief does not even live in this area,” Ferunzy said.

Muslims for Human Rights rapid response officer Francis Auma, who has been following up on the case, said national government administration officers should not use their positions to intimidate residents.

“It is a trend that Interior CS Fred Matiang’i should be worried about and do something about. It is not the first case we receive that NGAO officers are using their powers to try and get their way,” he said.

Auma said NGAO officers should inspire trust and not suspicion in their operations. He said they are a vital link to the higher authorities in the national government.

“If residents trust the chiefs and their assistants, they will slowly begin to trust the police and eventually work closely with them for a better Mombasa,” Auma said.

Edited by Josephine M. Mayuya