High level negotiations are on to persuade the Mombasa County Government to waive Sh400 million in land rates for the controversial Waitiki farm.
The coordinator of the Waitiki Farm squatter settlement programme, Mr Joseph Kanyiri, said that the owner of the 930-acre land, Mr Evanson Waitiki, had written to the Mombasa County Government seeking the waiver of the accrued land rates over a period of 18 years.
“Negotiations involving various agencies are going on at a high level ”, he said, adding that the National Land Commission, Lands Cabinet Secretary Jacob Kaimenyi, the county government and Mr Waitiki among other parties were involved.
Momabasa Acting Lands Executive Anthony Njaramba confirmed that Mr Waitiki had written to the county asking for the waiver.
Mr Njaramba however expressed shock at the high amount the beneficiaries had to pay, saying they had not been informed that occupiers of the land would be required to pay.
On Tuesday, while briefing the squatters and county officials on the final modalities of issuance of titles set for Saturday, Mr Joseph Kanyiri, said each of the squatters would be required to pay Sh184,000 spread out through three years.
He said the money used to compensate Mr Waitiki was drawn from the Settlement Fund Trustee and that it had to be refunded. But Njaramba said they were surprised when the announcement was made.
“We have been following up this matter since it started and we were at no point told that those occupying the land would be required to pay anything.
Our position is that the Sh184,000 is too high for most of the squatters in that land. What they should be required to pay is only fees to process the titles,” he said.
He said that they were not opposed to the process but the way the matter was being handled.
“We cannot be opposed because we know that it is our people who are going to benefit. We know that the team that has been on the ground has done a wonderful job taking only four weeks to survey the land while it would have taken nine months. We are in the plans and we will continue participating in the process,” he said.
At the same time, Likoni MP Masoud Mwahima has welcomed the negotiations over the waiver saying his CDF kitty could not pay the money because it was too high.
“If the amount was between Sh2 million and Sh10 million, we would comfortably pay it from the Likoni CDF but Sh400 million is too much for us,” he said during an interview at his Vyemani home.
The MP described the purchase of the expansive, but controversial Waitiki Farm as, a big score for the Jubilee government.
“Since 1997 we have been suffering here. Not local MPs and leaders; not the past three regimes have managed to bring a lasting solution”.
He added people could be frequently arrested and harassed but now a solution had been found.
Mr Mwahima said the Waitiki land issue had also been a security threat in the area and the finding of a lasting solution would restore peace.
President Uhuru Kenyatta personally negotiated the compensation with Mr Waitiki at State House, Nairobi, November last year.
When an agreement was reached, the President set up a special team to deal with the nitty-gritty that would lead to the issuance of the 8,000 title deeds. The first batch of them is set to be given by the President himself at Caltex Grounds, Likoni on Saturday.
Neither the government nor Mr Waitiki has disclosed the compensation amount. Mombasa Woman Rep Ms Mishi Mboko has claimed that the owner was paid Sh1.2 billion.
He was demanding more than Sh9 billion initially which is said to be the current value of the prime land.
Mr Kanyiri who led the government team on the ground declined to confirm the figure saying the negotiations on the price was handled by a different committee of which he was not a member.
However, Mr Kanyiri confirmed at the Likoni CDF office on Tuesday that Mr Waitiki had already surrendered the mother title to the land to the National Government.