At least 732 landless families who are descendants of a women's group that entertained Kenya’s founding President Mzee Jomo Kenyatta have warned that they will neither register as voters nor vote in the August elections unless the government gives them land.
Addressing journalists in Londiani Town, Kericho County on Sunday, the descendants of Nyakinyua dancers accused the government of ignoring their calls to be resettled after being thrown out of land allocated to them by Mzee Kenyatta in 1963.
Rift Valley Council of Elders Chairman Gilbert Kabage, who addressed journalists after meeting with the squatters, said it was a “big shame” that descendants of the Nyakinyua Women Group are still homeless after years of petitioning successive governments since 1988 to help them take back their land or get alternative land to restart their lives.
He said he had written to President Uhuru Kenyatta and National Land Commission chairman Muhammad Swazuri to look into the issue and seek an urgent end to the crisis that the homeless families have lived through for more than two decades.
“This is unacceptable and shameful. These people are tired and they have declared that if by August this year their issue will not have been resolved, they will not vote for the Jubilee government. I am urging President Kenyatta to look into this matter urgently,” said Mr Kabage.
“Their mothers used to entertain our first president with amazing dances and it is wrong to treat them like they do not matter,” he added.
Mr Kabage also threatened to move to court if the government fails to act on the residents’ pleas.
The squatters claimed they were kicked out of their 1,000-acre Shauri Yako home in Londiani Sub-County in 1988 after it was allocated to some private developers, forcing them to seek refuge in relatives’ homes.
The land, they claimed, was allocated to them by former powerful Rift Valley Provincial Commissioner Isaiah Mathenge on the orders of the founding president who wanted to fulfil a pledge to give a home to his favourite women dancers.
Michael Wachira, who was part of the first group to be settled at the Shauri Yako village and even served as village elder later, said the residents were forced to leave after earthmovers were used to destroy their homes in 1988.
“Immediately we started the process of seeking government help to repossess the land but our efforts failed. I even visited the office of President Daniel arap Moi to seek his help and spoke with (late) John Keen who was then an assistant minister in the president’s office,” said Mr Wachira.
According to him, Mr Keen wrote a letter to the then Rift valley Provincial Commissioner Yusuf Haji asking him to reverse the evictions, a letter which Mr Haji forwarded to the then Kericho District Commissioner Timothy Sirma.
However, nothing changed as the Nyakinyua women and their families were kicked out of the land unceremoniously, having saved nothing after their houses were brought down by earthmovers.
The affected families are now appealing to President Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto to intervene and help them get an alternative piece of land to settle.