Mombasa County on Friday protested the distribution of title deeds for the controversial Waitiki Farm, and accused the Government of sidelining it in the process.
Governor Hassan Joho said the county would not waive the Sh400 million in land rates it had been requested to because he had not been officially consulted.
Mr Joho’s stance cast a huge shadow on a ceremony scheduled for Saturday in which President Uhuru Kenyatta is expected to give out the title deeds at Shika Adabu grounds in the first phase.
The President is expected to issue about 5,000 title deeds to the inhabitants of the 930-acre land today, capping a week-long tour of the Coast region that saw him mingle freely with local residents and tourists.
He also held a question-and-answer session with more than 600 young people from the six coastal counties of Mombasa, Lamu, Kilifi, Tana River, Kwale and Taita-Taveta at State House, Mombasa.
Mr Joho who has been conspicuously missing from the President’s entourage said on Friday: “How can we be asked for a waiver yet we have not been involved in the whole process? We are only getting information from unreliable sources to the effect that the land owner Evanson Waitiki was paid.
If there was money to pay him, then why should there be no money to pay what belongs to the county? There is no full disclosure.’’
He said his government was also in the dark about how much Mr Waitiki was paid for the farm, which was taken over forcefully by Kaya Bombo raiders in 1999, claiming it was their ancestral land.
Mr Waitiki, who has over the years put up a fight for the land in court, eventually gave in and, following negotiations with the government, agreed to a compensation, whose value has remained secret with local leaders speculating it could have been in the range of Sh1.2 billion.
In a December 31 letter to Governor Joho, Mr Waitiki requested the county to waive outstanding land rates for the land to enable him get a clearance certificate. He did not indicate the amount.
The letter was attached to a covering note signed by Lands Principal Secretary Mariamu el Maawy.
On Friday, Mr Joho, who said he would attend today’s ceremony, insisted it would be irregular to give the inhabitants title deeds before the master title deed had been transferred to the buyer and a clearance certificate issued by the county.
“Somebody has to formally give us an explanation. This matter has been mishandled and all we want is for the issues to be sorted out properly and through consensus for the benefit of our people,’’ he added.
Mr Joho said the only time he was consulted by government officials was on Tuesday evening when Lands Cabinet Secretary Jacob Kaimenyi visited his office with the National Land Commission chairman Mohamad Swazuri after the public protested against their announcement that each of the allotees would have to pay Sh182,000 in land rates to the national Government.
“Mr Kaimenyi and Mr Swazuri just happened in my office at about 5pm on realising they had a challenge,” he added.
He referred to a public meeting at the Constituency Development Fund offices where Mr Joseph Kanyiri, the coordinator of Waitiki Farm Squatter Settlement programme announced for the first time that each occupier would be required to pay the money in three years, a remark that drew protests from the beneficiaries and politicians led by Woman Representative Mishi Mboko.
The governor’s senior adviser Abdulraham Idris said the county government wanted to know how the negotiations leading to the purchase of the land were carried out in order to shed light on the controversy and how public money had been spent.
“We are not asking for any favours but all we want is for the national government to be open in the whole process,’’ he said.
But on Friday, Mr Kanyiri maintained that consultations between various government agencies were going on, adding that he was optimistic that today’s distribution ceremony would go on as scheduled.
On Friday, Government officials riding in vehicles mounted with public address systems traversed Likoni sub-county rallying residents to converge at Shika Adabu Primary School on Saturday.
Elsewhere, the High Court in Mombasa on Friday suspended any further payments to Mr Waitiki for the controversial farm in Likoni.