Save public schools from illegal allocations

Friday May 12 2017

National Land Commission chairman Muhammad Swazuri

National Land Commission chairman Muhammad Swazuri speaks during the issuance of title deeds to primary schools at Moi Girls High School in Eldoret town on May 12, 2017. Some of the beneficiaries of the grabbed land are awaiting compensation. PHOTO | JARED NYATAYA | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

By GABRIEL DOLAN
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Kenya has many constitutional commissions but most commissioners owe their appointments to political godfathers rather than merit.

These godfathers usually come to commissioners’ defence in times of trial, yet National Land Commission chairman Muhammad Swazuri has been abandoned in the face of recent corruption investigations.

No politician has come to his defence. Neither are there claims that coastal people are always hounded out of office.

INVESTORS
Civil society organisations will not complain either as they could list dozens of suspicious dealings associated with Dr Swazuri.

In this respect I will just cite two issues that should be investigated by the EACC, CID or any other public investigating body that still has some measure of integrity left in its ranks.

Mwamdudu Primary School is located in Kwale County on the boundary with Mombasa County near the highway town of Miritini.

The school was established in 1966 and currently has 1,430 pupils. 

However, with the construction of the standard gauge railway and the Dongo Kundu bypass in the vicinity, the land has become a target for the inappropriately named ‘developers’ who want to establish industrial parks along the newly-constructed travel routes.

TITLE DEED
In August last year, Haki Yetu led a team from Shule Yangu, TI and Kituo cha Sheria to protest the threats to the children’s education.

Together with children and their parents, we planted three thousand trees to secure the compound.

Thereafter, we lobbied Dr Swazuri to acquire a fresh title deed for the school.

Instead of coming to the defence of public land, Dr Swazuri went quiet while the school committee members were arrested and charged in a Kwale court with being members of Al-Shabaab.

A company called Chunky Limited — a subsidiary of Bamboo Twist — claimed ownership of the land and promised to relocate the school, an offer which the parents duly rejected.

ILLEGALLY ACQUIRED

On January 23 this year, Dr Swazuri visited the school.

Everyone expected that he would hand over the title.

Instead, he announced that the land belonged to Chunky Limited.

After coming under pressure, he promised to return the following Saturday with all the evidence.

We waited for hours as police kept guard but Dr Swazuri has not ventured back since.

We can now prove that the ‘title’ was illegal.

PUBLIC HEARINGS
The story does not end there.

The quest to grab Mwamdudu School began the moment that adjacent plots MN/VI/ 1128-32 measuring 120 acres were secured by multiple owners, all by dubious means.

This land had been compulsorily acquired in 1974 by the government and was not available for allocation or sale.

Public Hearings were conducted by NLC on the same but no decisions have been made publicly.

Some of the beneficiaries acquired the land by using fake papers.

COMPENSATION
This is all found in a report prepared by NLC commissioner Abdhulkadir Khalif and submitted to the parliamentary lands committee.

He recommended that all the fake title deeds be cancelled by his chairman and that the government repossess the land.

That has not happened to date.

Some of the beneficiaries of the grabbed land are also on the list awaiting SGR compensation.

In my view, Dr Swazuri’s position as National Land Commission chair is untenable.

Who will save public land from irregular allocation?

[email protected] @GabrielDolan1