A dispute over ownership of a 6,000-acre land at Ihaleni near Mavueni, Kilifi County took a new twist on Saturday when thousands of squatters invaded it and started building houses.
The more than 7,000 squatters are accusing a British farmer of refusing to hand over the land back to them after his 100-year lease expired in 1997.
Locals also accused the National Land Commission (NLC) of dragging its investigations into the property that has been at the centre of controversy between the Briton identified as Christopher Wilson and Ihaleni Farmers Association for the last six years.
The association’s spokesman Mramba Thoya said: ‘‘We have decided to take over the land after the lands commission failed to solve the dispute. His lease expired over 100 years ago and the land must now be given back to us.”
The squatters initially moved to court seeking orders to evict the farmer before the matter was referred to the NLC in March.
YET TO GET HELP
“We have done everything to get our land back, including going to court but we are yet to get the help we need.
“Authorities have been reluctant to sort out the issue and this is what has provoked us into taking this action,” Mr Thoya said.
What is infuriating the squatters more is that farmer is no longer utilising the land, neither does he live on it, yet he doesn’t want to give it up. He reared livestock and grew crops but not any more.
Locals are accusing the Briton of sub-diving the land and dishing its portions to certain individuals yet investigations are still going on.
“We went to the land commission in March and it gave the farmer a 21-day notice to supply it with all ownership documents to the property. The investor declined and no action has been taken against him to date,” adds Mr Thoya.
He added: “When nothing was forthcoming, our governor talked to the commission which promised it was investigating the matter and would give its verdict in six months. This period has since elapsed without any results from NLC.”
The squatters claim influential people and local politicians are frustrating their efforts to get back their land.
Ms Sarah Karisa, a squatter, urged the government to intervene in the matter.
Efforts to reach Mr Wilson for comment were unsuccessful.