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January 21, 2019

Uhuru orders repossession of all grabbed land within five months

Mombasa governor Hassan Joho during the launch of Mama Ngina regeneration project yesterday /ANDREW KASUKU
Mombasa governor Hassan Joho during the launch of Mama Ngina regeneration project yesterday /ANDREW KASUKU

President Uhuru Kenyatta has given the Lands ministry and the National Land Commission a five-month ultimatum to repossess grabbed land in Mombasa.

Uhuru issued the order yesterday when he led the ground breaking of Mama Ngina Drive regeneration project.

He said the ceremony itself was a big win against land grabbers.

The recreational facility was grabbed by tycoons more than 20 years ago during the Moi regime when Tourism CS Najib Balala was Mombasa mayor.

“The fight that has been here, against those who wanted to take public property, was fierce. Today, every Kenyan knows this place is public property and nobody will claim it,” Uhuru said.

He said the ministry and the NLC should work together to repossess every grabbed public land in Mombasa by the time he returns to open the new Mama Ngina Water Park in June.

“When we come back here to officially open this park, public land should be in public hands,” the President said.

Mama Ngina Drive will be upgraded to international standards and rebranded as Mombasa Water Park by the Ministry of Tourism.

The Treasury has allocated Sh460 million in the 2018/2019 financial year as a one-off budget item under tourism recovery to complete the project.

Uhuru’s directive was particularly about two parcels adjacent to Mama Ngina Drive still in the hands of tycoons.

Governor Hassan Joho said the grabbers of the two plots are known.The land must be returned intact, he said.

“Very soon, you will see bulldozers opening up public roads. We are only waiting for NLC to complete their process.”

He said the county government will not allow anyone to develop public land.

Balala disclosed that 20 years ago he was forced to resign as Mombasa mayor in protest after tycoons became too greedy and wanted to grab all available public pieces of land.

“The two parcels that remain grabbed in this area will also be repossessed for expansion of this project,” Balala said.

Mombasa has for long suffered at the hands of land grabbers. So daring have these people been that they at some time seized part of State House land next to the Coast regional police headquarters.

The land, which is a few metres from Mombasa State House and measures 0.7 hectares, had been earmarked for the construction of the official residence of the Deputy President.

According to the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission, the plot was initially hived off in 1997 by an individual who later in 2013 sold it to a couple who wanted to put up a hotel.

The EACC stopped the construction of the hotel but the land had already been subdivided and residential houses put up on it.

REVOKED TITLE DEEDS

In 1994, the Kibarani dumpsite, which has now been decommissioned, was grabbed and subdivided into four parcels and allocated to three companies, according to the NLC.

In August last year, President Uhuru directed the Lands ministry to revoke the Kibarani titles and reserve the land for the Mombasa regeneration project.

He said the dumpsite must be transformed into a recreational site in line with the Mombasa regeneration project.

In March 2014, two Mombasa tycoons surrendered parcels of land worth Sh1.6 billion to the Mombasa county government.

Rashid Sajjad and his business partner Mohamed Bawazir entered a deal with the EACC to return four parcels of public land they had acquired more than 20 years earlier.

The parcels include Uhuru Gardens land along Moi Avenue, the Jomo Kenyatta public beach, the Mvita Clinic land and the BuxtonGarden land. Sajjad bought the Uhuru Gardens land in 1995 for Sh55 million from the former Mombasa Municipal Council.

The settlement agreement said the county government would not owe the two any money.

In August last year, human rights group Haki Africa called for the demolition of 2,000 buildings in Mombasa they said had encroached on beach access roads, public toilets and other public utilities.

In 2015, Mombasa conducted an audit and identified all grabbed public land and utilities following a report by the county chief valuer.

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