Thousands of squatters at the Coast are a happy lot after the government allocated them parcels of land.
Lands minister James Orengo during a tour of several counties last week, issued title deeds to more than 6,500 residents.
Mr Orengo and his entourage visited Lamu, Kilifi and Mombasa counties where he assured residents that the gesture was genuine this time round.
He was alluding to the 2007 tour of the region by President Kibaki during which title deeds were issued but later taken back on grounds of anomalies such as wrong names and incorrect plot numbers.
“Those ones were controversial, but not these ones,” stated Mr Orengo while issuing 3,421 title deeds in Mapimo, in Magarini constituency.
Allotment letters given
The land ownership documents were also issued at Faza in Lamu where 1,455 locals benefited and another 1,709 allotment letters given out at the Maganda settlement scheme in Changamwe on Friday.
The minister traversed remote parts of the region such as Mokoe, Mkunumbi, Mpeketoni, and Witu in Faza; Ngomeni, Gongoni and Malindi in Kilifi, and Diani in South Coast.
During a courtesy call at Coast provincial commissioner Ernest Munyi’s office, the minister conceded that the land issue in the region was a big challenge to the government.
However, he said such tussles could now be solved through the new Constitution.
“The indigenous people of the Coast are not squatters but have a historical claim to the land and their interests must be protected,” he said, noting that although not everyone could be given a title deed to their plots, the issue could be solved by giving the land to the community.
On Thursday, Mr Orengo and his Fisheries counterpart Amason Kingi, jointly launched a programme to repossess all grabbed fish landing sites along the country’s coastline.
The two ministers announced in Malindi that all the 60 fish landing sites between Kiunga in Lamu and Vanga in Kwale would be issued with new title deeds after the current ones held by private developers were revoked.
Mr Kingi announced that his ministry had received Sh285 million from the World Bank for repair of landing sites, building cold storage facilities, establishment of ice-cube making plants and purchase of modern fishing gear for local fishermen.
Grabbed landing sites
According to the Magarini MP, about 50 per cent of the fish landing sites have been grabbed.
Mr Orengo was surprised that despite a government notice gazetting all fish landing sites at the Coast, some people had irregularly acquired them.
He revoked title deeds for Mayungu landing site and Watamu beach land.
Mr Orengo told foreigners in the region to submit their land ownership documents to his ministry in two weeks or face legal action.
He said it was illegal for any foreigner to own land in Kenya unless they had been approved by the President.
“I was shocked during my tour of the Coast that no local person owns land in the prime beach area except foreigners. It is also surprising that some of them do not have allotment letters let alone title deeds.”
On evictions, Mr Orengo said his ministry was working on guidelines to ensure people were treated with dignity even when occupying land they did not own.
Treated with respect
“It is against the law for police officers to burn houses or bring down shelters when evicting people. Let us treat everyone with respect even if they do not own the land,” he said.
He warned the residents against selling their land, saying this would make them squatters for ever.
The minister further warned speculators against putting up structures near proposed highways and ports expecting payment from the government as compensation.