SQUATTERS DISPUTE

We won't allow Kamiti land hived off, says KFS

Chief conservator of forests Julius Kamau said they have written to the Attorney General, Paul Kariuki to seek legal opinion.

In Summary

• The announcement dealt a major blow to the more than 1,500 squatters, 149 of them already holding titles for the parcel.

• The chief conservator of forests maintains hiving off the land will go against the government's bid to increase the forest cover from current 7.2 per cent to 10 per cent by 2020 should the forest be hived off. 

New KFS chief conservator of forests Julius Kamau. He has a wealth of experience in conservation and human resources management.
APPOINTED New KFS chief conservator of forests Julius Kamau. He has a wealth of experience in conservation and human resources management.
Image: FILE

The Kenya Forest Service yesterday vowed to repossess the Kamiti Forest in Kiambu which was allocated to squatters.

KFS chief conservator of forests Julius Kamau said they have written to the Attorney General, Paul Kariuki to seek legal opinion.

“If a parcel of land has not been degazzeted, it belongs to KFS,” Kamau said in his office.

He maintained it will go against the government's bid to increase the forest cover from current 7.2 per cent to 10 per cent by 2020 should the forest be hived off. 

Already, a stand-off is looming between the National Assembly and the Ministry of Environment over the same parcel of land.

Lands CS Farida Karoney had told the MPs that the normal procedure is that when the President makes verbal orders, it must be followed by a written communication by the Head of Public Service but that did not happen. 

Karoney was responding to questions by the National Assembly’s Lands Committee during a probe on the matter.

The announcement dealt a major blow to the more than 1,500 squatters,  149 of them already holding titles for the parcel.

They have fought for nearly 25 years to own the land. 

The CS said any person having a title deed to part of the land is holding an illegal document because the parcel was issued irregularly.

“As a ministry, we hold the view that the titles that were issued in respect to the Kamiti Amner land were irregularly awarded. At the time of the issuance, the land had not been degazetted,” Karoney said.

She said legal procedures for excision of a public forest were not followed.

Environment CAS Mohamed Elmi, who also appeared before the committee, said that politically driven agitation and poor law enforcement by the then Forest Department made it hard for the government to reclaim the land.

A source at the Ministry of Environment told the Star the move by the committee will set "a very bad precedent."

He said it will complicate the ministry's ambitious agenda of increasing the current 7.2 per cent forest cover to at least 10 per cent by 2022.

The forest land row straddles the last three regimes. 

In 1995, then-President Daniel arap Moi verbally gave out more than 419 acres to squatters who were displaced during the post-election violence in the Rift Valley after the 1992 multi-party polls.

Kamiti was originally gazetted as a forest area as per Proclamation No. 14 of 1933.

Subsequently, it was declared Central Forest via legal notice No. 174 of May 20, 1964, owned by the state and the Kenya Forest Service.

Through the late Cabinet Minister Arthur Magugu the squatters requested to be resettled in Kirigit Stadium.

Following the request, Moi gave a directive for the squatters to get land, triggering the hiving off of the forest. 

The then minister of Lands JK Mulinge jumpstarted the process of resettling the displaced people. 

Mulinge issued legal notice No. 179 of May 12, 1995. However, the minister did not involve the Ministry of Environment in the alienation process yet its mandate covers forests. This made the whole process null and void.

In November last year, the National Assembly's Lands Committee chaired by Rachael Nyamai toured the parcel.

Already, the committee has recommended in its report that the land is de-gazetted and excised from Kamiti Forest.

The report was introduced on the floor of the House on Monday last week. The ministries of Lands and the Environment have been against the move.

In April Lands CS Farida Karoney said failure to make written communication made it impossible for her ministry to de-gazette the 419-acre forest to resettle the squatters.

The CS said the 419 acres are still public forest land, despite Moi's directive. 

(edited by O. Owino)