Grabbing of public land and greedy allocations has distorted land use in counties and left devolved governments without space for services they are supposed to provide.
Contacted for comment on irregular allocations affecting counties, the chairman of the Council of Governors, Bomet Governor Isaac Ruto said: “County governments will not let go public utility plots grabbed by developers who want to convert them for purposes which the facilities were not intended.”
In Meru County, for example, land for the most critical public institutions — police stations, hospitals, government offices, roads, even sensitive installations like the County Commissioner’s residence — has been allocated to individuals, investigations by the Nation reveal.
Many county and national government officials are squatters on what used to be public property and face eviction by new owners.
So serious is the problem that the spot where President Kenyatta is expected to stand when he launches road projects in the county is private property, owned by a local pastor.
President Kenyatta is expected to launch the construction of the Mati and Meru Town Ring road during his visit later in the week. Investigations show the Gitimbine Road junction on the road to Meru Town, Githongo and Nkabune-Mati roads has been allocated to Pastor Peter Riungu M’anampiu on behalf of the Kenya Christian Brotherhood Church.
In another case, land belonging to a police station has been hived off and allocated to an individual. A part of the seven acres occupied by the County Commissioner’s house has also been chopped off to create two plots claimed by private interests.
The old colonial African court, which in another society would form part of the county’s history and heritage, is being claimed by private individuals as is a large part of Nteere Park, Meru town’s only public park, which has been subdivided into plots though the “owners” are just now emerging to lay claim to the allocations.
While land grabbing is a common to all counties, Meru is a case study of how poor planning and greed are defeating the aims of devolution.
Large pieces of land either set aside for public use or actually being used by the public has been transferred to private ownership and documents issued.
Many of the owners are yet to alienate and develop the land, but it is not available for public installations either.
There is real danger that if the individuals succeed, government offices housing the livestock and departments, the Teachers Service Commission, the Department of Public Health, the Childrens’ Department, the Kenya Bureau of Statistics, Labour offices and the Registrar of Persons among others could soon be evicted should the beneficiaries decide to develop the parcels allocated to them.
Meru Governor Peter Munya has previously complained about lack of office space for both commercial and public officers.
But the largely timid county government, intimidated by powerful local business and political interests as well as some national politicians, is yet to come to grips with the land crisis. County officials would not comment on the allocations.