We are all ‘aliens’ here, so we should never fight over land in this country

Anyone getting land on such terms should be more than satisfied.

Tuesday January 12 2016

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One cannot help but applaud President Uhuru Kenyatta for finally moving to resolve the long-festering sore of the Waitiki Farm issue at the Coast.

In paying off Mr Evanson Waitiki and issuing ownership documents to squatters, who have been officially allocated parcels on the 930-acre farm, a problem that has persisted since 1997 should have been amicably resolved.

It was also commendable of the President to stand firm on the requirement that the new land owners pay for their titles.

Nothing comes for free, and they should not listen to the politicians inciting them against a modest Sh182,000 spread over 12 years.

Anyone getting land on such terms should be more than satisfied.

But, of course, there will be those who will point out the matter of different treatment for different folks.

They are citing the fact that when it came to resettlement of post-election violence victims, the government bought land for the displaced without asking for any payment.

In fact, those being resettled got not just land, but also cash to help them start afresh in their new homes.

However, the two situations are quite different.

One was a case of Kenyans forcibly evicted from their farms and homes in the deadly ethnic-political clashes that nearly dismembered the country after the disputed 2007 presidential election.

The other was a case of those who forcibly took over a piece of land from the legal owner being granted legal possession.

The circumstances were different and the settlement differs, but both still set dangerous precedents.

In both the Waitiki Farm episode and the post-election violence displacement in the Rift Valley, the government has, in effect ratified politically-inspired land grabs and expulsions by those claiming some historical or ancestral rights to somebody else’s property.

Mr Waitiki may have been but one individual and the circumstances under which he acquired the land may be called into question, but he was still a victim of a land grab.

It is also germane that the invasion of his land was part of wider politically motivated violence fuelled by the Kanu government ahead of the 1997 General Election.

The Coast violence targeting “alien” Kenyan communities was supposed to replicate the infamous Rift Valley ethnic clashes sponsored by Kanu since 1991 to eject those seen to favour the campaign for democracy.

It is fitting that it is the children of Kanu running the Jubilee administration now trying to sort out the mess, but they may be compounding the problem.

They have set the stage for any group claiming some ancestral rights to a piece of land to violently eject the owners.

And in the resettlement of post-election violence victims in their ethnic homelands, the government helped the planners of the Rift Valley ethnic-cleansing pogroms to achieve their ultimate objectives — eject so-called aliens and reserve the region for the supposedly “indigenous” communities.

So what happened to the sacred principle that any Kenyan is free to own land, live, and work anywhere in the country?

When does one become an indigene or an alien?


That last question is particularly crucial: During the multi-party campaign in 1992, President Daniel arap Moi told Forum for Restoration of Democracy (Ford) founder-member Ahmed Salim Bamahriz to pack his bags and go back to Yemen, the land of his ancestors.

The coastal activist replied that he would be happy to travel on the same plane with Mr Moi and drop him off in the Sudan!

Even today, the communities that claim “ownership” of the northern Rift Valley also trumpet their origins up the Nile all the way to Egypt.

Their Nilotic compatriots around Lake Victoria also are happy to proclaim their origins up the Nile.

And some of the communities that claim they are the indigenous inhabitants of the Kenyan coast trace their ancestry to Yemen, Oman, Saudi Arabia, and other parts of the Middle East.

The Bantu of central, western, and coastal Kenya are said to have come from either southern Africa or the Congo basin.

So, unless that history is challenged, nobody should be able to claim indigenous or ancestral rights to any part of Kenya and on that basis try to kick out others.

And we should never be troubled by ethnic feuds over land in the future.