Leaders from the coast have vowed to work closely with the Jubilee Coalition government after President Uhuru Kenyatta issued the first batch of 60,000 title deeds to residents of the region.
In what appeared to be a change of heart, the leaders Friday showered praise on President Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto for addressing the land problem. The excited leaders fell short of declaring support for Jubilee come the next General Election and instead said “the people will decide”.
The region voted overwhelmingly for the rival Coalition for Reform and Democracy (Cord) and its presidential candidate Raila Odinga during the March 4 election, but the leaders said they were ready to close ranks for the sake of development.
Addressing a public rally at Khadija Primary School in Nyali constituency, where the titles were given, the leaders led by governors Amason Kingi (Kilifi) and Hassan Joho (Mombasa) said the issuance of the deeds was “a 50-year dream that has finally come true”.
Likoni MP Masoud Mwahima was forthright: “We abused you so much during the campaigns Mr President, but today we are singing a different song,” he started.
“Our problem in coast region for all those decades has been land ownership. Today, the Jubilee government has brought title deeds to us; and you are telling us not to work with Jubilee? We must be crazy then.”
Mr Kingi said he was ready to pay the price for working with the government since it was “now clear that the government was ready to sort out the critical land issue.”
“In matters of development, I will be close to your government irrespective of party affiliation. If I will be called names for this, let it be,” the Kilifi governor said.
His Mombasa counterpart welcomed the move, saying the gesture demonstrated the government’s commitment to addressing landlessness.
“In Mombasa, we are people who mean what we say; when we say we are going west, we go west,” he said, alluding to their decision to work closely with Jubilee.
Mombasa Senator Hassan Omar said the leadership at the Coast was ready and willing to co-operate with the government to address problems facing their people.
“We will pursue the agenda of land redistribution, and now that the government is addressing it, we will work with President Kenyatta and Mr Ruto,” he stated.
When he addressed the gathering, Mr Kenyatta said the government was acting on their election pledges and manifesto to solve the land problem in the country.
“We promised to solve the land issue that has been there for 50 years. Given the opportunity the answer will be attained and nobody will have the platform to use land as a campaign issue,” the President said.
He said he looked forward to issuing three million title deeds countrywide during his first tenure.
Mr Kenyatta said land was a factor of production and a source of wealth and that the government would emphasis tackling the issue for the benefit of Kenyans.
“With title, you can grow crops and export, build rental houses and lease, get loans and start business to prosper,” he added, and warned government officers against frustrating title owners when they go to collect their documents.
On his part, Deputy President William Ruto said despite claims by a section of the political class that the government would not deliver the titles, the Jubilee government had proved the “doubting Thomases wrong”.
“Our resolve is to ensure that the land and squatter question is answered. We realised this was a challenge in the region and it is not about politics that we are seeking a solution. It is legitimate for the people in Kenya to own land,” he said.
Additional reporting by MWAKERA MWAJEFA