Two groups, one of them a church, are engaged in a tussle over ownership of 300 acres in Athi River, Machakos county.
On Monday a group arrived on the disputed land where property worth millions of shillings was destroyed by members of the Deliverance Church.
The tens of ‘owners’, majority of them young men, arrived in cars and motorbikes and found the demolition by the church going on.
The 157 Deliverance Church members, accompanied by security officers, pulled down houses, pit latrines and fences before the second group claiming ownership of the parcel arrived. Household goods, construction and fencing materials were destroyed. The land is in Ngelani.
A bulldozer demolished houses under the watch of Athi River deputy county commissioner David Juma and Mlolongo assistant county commissioner David Mukung. Masons building one of the houses fled.
The church’s spokesperson, Bishop William Tuimising, said the “grabbers” operations on the land had barred the legitimate owners from investing on their plots.
“As Deliverance Church, we formed a men’s fellowship ministry, of which I’m a founder and we bought this parcel of land in 1993,” he told the press at the scene during the demolitions.
Tuimisiang said they bought the 300 acres from the British American Tobacco (BAT) for Sh30,000 per acre, amounting to Sh9 million.
He said they sought the government’s assistance after their efforts to persuade the “grabbers” to move out of the land bore no fruit.
“We have demolished all the structures that do not belong to our members,” Tuimisiang said.
He said the members own between one and five acres each.
The second group claiming ownership accused the church of invading their property. They said they bought part of the land and they have genuine ownership documents.
The group claimed the church members had gone beyond their legitimate land and encroached on theirs. They demanded that the church pays for the damage.
Deputy county commissioner Juma, who had earlier told the press the church legitimately owns the land, had to intervene and mediate between the two charged groups.
Juma told them to form a 10-member team, five members each, to be tasked with finding the rightful owner and boundaries.