A row is brewing between the Taita Taveta County government and former Taveta MP Basil Criticos over the fencing off of a historic site.
Mr Criticos has fenced off Salaita Hills and marked it as private property, with a warning cautioning the public against trespassing.
The fencing of the hills has sparked a tiff between members of the public and the county leadership on the one hand and Mr Criticos on the other over access rights.
The county leadership has called for clear demarcation to separate public land from private.
Talking to the Nation on phone, Mr Criticos maintained that he owns the land and has a title deed for it.
“This is my land since 1972, so I don’t see anything wrong with fencing it off,” he said.
He said he was fencing the land because historical artefacts are being stolen from the site, making it to lose its value.
“People come as tourists with metal detectors and take away the artefacts. This site is a national heritage that needs to be protected,” he said.
Following the fencing, anyone who wishes to visit the site will now be screened as they enter and when leaving, he noted.
“The fencing is to ensure that people don’t leave with things they didn’t come with because collecting the artefacts is depriving the site its relevance as a historical site,” he added.
He said that those calling themselves conservationists are the ones involved in theft of the artefacts.
“Anyone in doubt that I own the land can confirm with the county land surveyors,” he said.
However, Deputy Governor Majala Mlaghui maintained that Salaita Hills is a national heritage site.
“We shall conduct a search to set things clear on issues of the title deed,” she said. She however did not reveal measures the county would take following the incident.
She said the matter calls for thorough investigations that will require surveyors to go to the ground with the map and clear the air on issues of boundaries and the Salaita Hills title deed.
Nominated MCA Anasitance Mombo said the national heritage site belongs to the county government and that it is not clear why the former MP has fenced it.
“What we know is that historic sites belong to county or national governments” she said, adding that lack of a heritage committee in the county assembly is hampering deliberations on the matter.
The Kenya Hotel Keepers and Caterers Association Tsavo and Amboseli tourism circuit chairman, Willy Mwadilo, said that Salaita Hills had been gazetted by National Museum of Kenya as a heritage site.