An association of Muslims in Kibwezi Township has faulted the National Land Commission over the ownership of a disputed plot in the town claimed by both the organisation and a resident.
The Kibwezi Muslim Association claims trusteeship to the land, measuring 2.5 acres, on behalf of the Muslim community in the area and that government officials had set it aside as public land.
According to the NLC, however, the land at the centre of the dispute belongs to Ms Asha Bilal Msellam, a resident who inherited it from her ancestors, something the Muslims contest.
“We are appalled by National Land Commission’s recent move to declare that this is no longer public land, and are opposed to its handing over to an individual,” Mr Hussein Athman, the association’s chairman, told reporters at the contested land on Sunday.
Accompanied by the association’s officials, Mr Athman claimed that the Kibwezi Muslims Association was the rightful owner of the contested land and had plans to build a nursery school and a college.
Documents that the Nation saw indicate that the land in question has been at the centre of the ownership tussle for decades.
“Please note that an allotment letter Reference No 11306/X dated 7th July 1999 was issued to Kibwezi Muslim Association of P O Box 118 Kibwezi,” reads a letter dated August 8, 2013 and signed by Mr Bii Ngeny, Makueni County physical planning officer.
And on January 27, 2016, the NLC wrote to the Land Administration Committee in Maueni County, bequeathing the disputed land to Ms Msellam and advising the board to “kindly initiate the process of conferring her ownership documents”.
“By a copy of this letter, the Police Commander, Makueni and the Deputy County Commissioner, Kibwezi are instructed to exit the family of Said Aboud who have invaded the said plot,” reads the letter signed by NLC chairman Muhammad Swazuri.
In a letter to the NLC dated March 2016, Mr Aboud, who is the treasurer of the Muslims’ organisation, took issue with what he called "dragging my family name into the current dispute”, arguing that his family was not a disputant in the first place.
“Telling from this gross misrepresentation of facts, it is clear that the NLC did shoddy work of getting to the bottom of this serious dispute,” Mr Aboud told journalists on Sunday, calling upon the land commission to order a fresh probe on the land ownership.
According to Mr Swazuri, government agencies had ignored due procedure in setting aside the contested plot as public land.
But the Kibwezi Muslims Association vowed not to relent until the NLC reviewed the case and ruled in their favour in the land dispute.