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Compensation signals end to 30-year land row in Vihiga

Friday September 6 2019

Wilber Ottichilo

Vihiga Governor Wilber Ottichilo at the county headquarters in Mbale September 3, 2019. PHOTO | ISAAC WALE | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

DERICK LUVEGA
By DERICK LUVEGA
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The government has finally started compensating hundreds of families for a 30-acre piece of land on which it wants to construct public offices and other facilities in Mbale.

The families gave out their land in 1985, and the latest move signals an end to a three-decades long dispute that had seen the affected families move to court to seek redress.

About 300 people were relocated to a 40-acre Musinji-Shaviringa Settlement Scheme, which is still technically a forest reserve under the Kenya Forest Service (KFS) and located 24 kilometres from Mbale town, but were not given title deeds.

They had moved to court demanding for justice and seeking orders to be returned to their original land in Mbale after their plea for compensation failed to yield results for three decades.

But the county and national governments asked for adjournment of the case to enable the matter be addressed away from the corridors of justice. The case is before a Kakamega court.

On the land in Mbale town presently are the headquarters of national and county government offices.

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The building houses the offices of the county commissioner, the governor, various county and national government offices as well as county police administration offices.

Also built on the land is Vihiga County Referral Hospital, Mbale Rural Hospital, Kenya Medical Training College, the prison, municipal offices, municipal market, the parking lot and several government houses.

On Friday, Governor Wilber Ottichilo and the Deputy Director in the Lands Ministry Ms Rose Mugita met the locals in Shaviringa and assured them the process of awarding them with title deeds is underway.

Ms Mugita represented Lands Cabinet Secretary Ms Farida Koroney.

While apologising that it had taken long to compensate the affected families, both Dr Ottichilo and Ms Mugita called for patience saying the process takes time.

The plan involves surveying and degazetting the forest reserve in Shaviringa to enable processing and issuance of title deeds to begin.

Already, Dr Ottichilo's administration has allocated Sh10 million in this year's budget to fund the exercise.

Said Ms Mugita: "All the stakeholders will be involved in this plan. A lot of consultation has to be done so that we are sure of what is being done."

She added: "People will have to get titles but the Cabinet Secretary (Farida Koroney) says it's a process and calls for patience. I assure you that the National Government is with you and we will walk together."

Dr Ottichilo said a committee comprising of locals' representatives, KFS, lands department and the political leadership will be formed next week to oversee the process.

"This area is a gazetted forest. Survey should be done to guide on degazettement and issuance of title deeds," said Dr Ottichilo.

He went on: "We have already made an allocation of Sh10 million. As the governor, I will work closely with the National Government to ensure that you get title deeds."

The process has delayed even after President Uhuru Kenyatta issued a presidential directive in February 2014 that the resettlement of the affected families be expedited.

And yesterday, Dr Ottichilo said that the people who gave up their land for construction of government offices and facilities in Mbale were still struggling and lacking social amenities as the forest reserve could not be developed.

The area lacks water supply, roads, hospitals, schools, electricity and market.

"I apologise for all you have had to endure all this time. About 35 years is a very long time," said Dr Ottichilo.