The rampant land conflicts and high number of squatters in Lamu are as a result of historical injustices which date back to 1908.
According to Dr Samuel Tororei, who is in charge of historical land injustices at the National Land Commission (NLC), land conflicts in Lamu stem way back to the colonial era when all land in Lamu was listed as government land.
Dr Tororei said the move was a great injustice to the region and its people, something he said has now caused a lot of suffering besides precipitating conflicts.
Addressing journalists at the Lamu Sunsail Hotel in Lamu Town on Monday, Dr Tororei also blamed previous regimes for contributing to massive land irregularities, including irregular and unfair allocation and careless selling whose effects can still be felt today.
SCRAMBLE FOR LAND
“The current scramble for land in Lamu and the increased landlessness in the region can be traced way back to 1908 [when] the colonial government passed a decree which gave Africans about six months to lay claim [to] their lands.
“Since many Africans had no clue about gazette notices, many were subsequently unable to [stake] their claims and that way, Lamu ended up being rounded up and declared as government land which is now public land,” said Dr Tororei.
“The assumption by then was that all people in Lamu were squatters who didn’t own any land yet they did not have knowledge on how to lay claim. That’s why the people of Lamu have since felt it was a great injustice,” he added.
However, the NLC commissioner said he is confident that new land laws will greatly assist in protecting private, public and community land.
He also lauded devolution, which he said is a key factor in addressing land issues.
He said the past regimes such as the district development committees and the defunct county councils had full authority over land which resulted to massive land grabbing and unfair allocations.
Dr Tororei said a lot land in Lamu County ended up being given to a few individuals who converted it to ranches.
“That is also the time that tycoons had a chance to grab 60,000 or even 100,000 acres of land since land acquisitions and approvals were issued single-handedly by the Commissioner of Lands or any leader in power.
“Today, things are different since one has to pass through the Land ministry, NLC and the county government(s),” he said.
He assured residents in Lamu that NLC is doing all it can to resolve the land problem.
He called on the Lamu County government to cooperate with NLC in ensuring that the land problem is resolved and also by ensuring the squatters get their own plots and title deeds.
Over 70 per cent of Lamu’s population is yet to acquire title deeds for their lands, a situation that makes it very easy for grabbers to perpetuate their acts.
Dr Tororei’s sentiments come at a time when there have been numerous calls for NLC to assist Lamu residents acquire land title deeds which will enable them protect the precious asset from grabbers.