House team to release report on 723-acre Lewa Conservancy land dispute

More than 200 squatters are staking a claim on a 723-acre land managed by the Lewa Conservancy.

Saturday February 13 2016

 A Black rhinocerous attempts to get away from an approaching helicopter at the Lewa wildlife conservancy. The National Assembly’s Lands Committee is set to release a report on a 723-acre land dispute pitting the Lewa Conservancy and more than 200 squatters in Buuri Sub-County, Meru County. AFP PHOTO  | TONY KARUMBA

A Black rhinocerous attempts to get away from an approaching helicopter at the Lewa wildlife conservancy. The National Assembly’s Lands Committee is set to release a report on a 723-acre land dispute pitting the Lewa Conservancy and more than 200 squatters in Buuri Sub-County, Meru County. AFP PHOTO | TONY KARUMBA 

By DAVID MUCHUI
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The National Assembly’s Lands Committee is set to release a report on a 723-acre land dispute pitting the Lewa Conservancy and more than 200 squatters in Buuri Sub-County, Meru County.
About 215 families that were evicted from the land by the government in 1998 had petitioned the National Assembly through Buuri MP Kinoti Gatobu.
The squatters’ committee chairman, Joseph Mugambi, said the land that now belongs to the Livestock Department was allocated to the residents in 1991 under the watch of then ruling party Kanu leaders.
Speaking when the squatters met members of the parliamentary lands committee on Friday, Mr Mugambi said police officers later stormed the settlement before setting their houses on fire.
“Everyone was required to hold up the Kanu flag while we were being allocated the land. We have been living on the road reserves since we were evicted under the orders of a District Commissioner. We are asking the government to give us the land because it has remained idle,” Mr Mugambi said.
WILDLIFE CORRIDOR
The management of Lewa Conservancy, which covers about 65,000 hectares, has argued that the land is a wildlife corridor that links the area to the Samburu and Laikipia ecosystem.
Mr Peter Mwongera, a former councillor, told the National Assembly committee that the contested land was part of about 1,070 acres of public land in the area.
“Out of the 1,070 acres, a former deputy lands commissioner was allocated 300 acres, which he sold. Another 70 acres was left out as a water catchment area.
“The 723 acres was given to locals by former Lands minister Harvester Angaine for tobacco farming. It was later given to squatters from Meru, Turkana, Samburu and Somali communities,” Mr Mwongera said.
Mrs Asenath Murega, a squatter, said she lost all her property to a fire started by police officers.
Mr Joseph Kimathi, who was then a Kanu chairman in the area, said he was arraigned in court after the fire started by police officers burnt 800 acres of Lewa Conservancy land.
“I was charged and released on a Sh1 million bond for incitement and destruction of property. Yet it is police officers who burnt our property,” Mr Kimathi said.
VISITED THE SCENE
The committee, led by Naivasha MP John Kihagi, visited the scene before meeting the Lewa Conservancy management.
He said the committee would submit a report within three months and ensure justice is done to the squatters.
“We will work closely with the county government to resolve the matter. If there is any inappropriate gazettement we will cancel it,” Mr Kihagi said.
The National Assembly committee members included Paul Otuoma (Funyula), Benson Mbai (Masinga), Patrick Makau (Mavoko), Julius Ndegwa (Lamu West), Bernard Bett (Bomet East), Raymond Moi (Rongai), Joseph Magwanga (Kasipul), Matthew Lempurkel (Laikipia North), Mpuru Aburi (Tigania East) and nominated MP Sarah Korere.

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