Thousands of squatters in Mombasa and Kwale counties lose millions of shillings every month to individuals who collect land rates illegally.
The Parliamentary Committee on Land and Natural Resources was told on Thursday that most squatters pay land rates to individuals and not to the council, as required by law.
Mr Kibwana Baya, a resident, said they pay Sh2,500 per month for each house on a plot to absentee landlords.
“We have been paying this, and whenever we protest, we are evicted or sometimes threatened by the land rate collectors. This only happens in Coast Province where people have taken advantage of squatters to enrich themselves,” Mr Baya said during public hearings on the three land Bills at Malindi Municipal Hall.
The proposed laws are the Land Bill, the National Land Commission Bill and the Land Registration Bill.
Mr Joseph Kavoke, a Kisauni resident, said they had a list of individuals, who collect rates from squatters. He said they would submit the list to the committee in confidence.
Bahari MP Benedict Gunda, who is a member of the Land committee, said it was illegal for brokers to fleece residents.
During the meeting, the residents suggested that the Lands Bill be amended to state clearly the duties of the National Land Commission and Cabinet secretary.
“We feel most roles and powers to determine land disputes are conferred more on the Cabinet secretary leaving the National Land Commission toothless,” a Mombasa resident, Fr Gabriel Dolan, said.
The priest urged Parliament to amend a clause, which permits foreigners to own agriculture land for 99 years.
“We suggest the government amends the clause to allow locals to own land to empower them economically. Any agricultural land leased to foreigners should range for a period between 20 to 40 years to end the ongoing land injustices where leased land is inherited by more than four generations of the same family,” he said.
Huge chunks of land in Coast are owned by foreigners, with many indigenous people rendered squatters.
Malindi Mayor Samson Mapinga suggested that squatters occupying the land belonging to absentee landlords be granted ownership.
He also urged the Lands ministry to liaise with the council in issuing title deeds for beach plots, saying, the law banning construction of structures within 60 metres of the shoreline was not being followed.
“Before issuing title deeds to developers, the land’s office should consult us to avoid conflict because developers have been getting title deeds without the knowledge of the council, which has made the 60 metres rule prone to abuse,” he said.
The committee on Land and Natural Resources is collecting views from the public across the country on the three land Bills before tabling their findings in Parliament.
The meeting was interrupted for some minutes by a group of youths, who demanded to have the hearings stopped if their questions were not addressed.
It took the intervention of Mumias MP Benjamin Washiali, who chaired the meeting, to calm down the unruly youths.
“We are not here to solve your land issues, we are here to collect your views on what you want to be included in these Bills,” Mr Washiali told the youths.
The group had demanded to know what the government was doing to address a land dispute at the Chembe Kibabamche area where they claimed there were fraudulent allocations.
They claimed a taskforce constituted to resolve the issue was not doing its work.