Land barons blamed for spike in land invasions in Lamu West

A rise in land invasions in some parts of Lamu West constituency has put land owners, security agencies and a section of local leaders in panic.

The invasions according to Lamu County Commissioner Gilbert Kitiyo have so far been reported in some parts of Mokowe, a burgeoning town center that private developers may be keen on as it has been identified as the county’s new administrative center.

The land invasions are being carried out with complete disregard for the law, with some unscrupulous land invaders going as far as to attack and hurt an assistant county commissioner, who sought to stop them from gaining access to someone’s land, Kitiyo revealed.

The county’s senior administrative official said that the land invasions are spontaneous and are being carried out by gangs, whom he said are on the payroll of moneyed private land developers.

They have repeatedly disregarded pleas from the NLC, police and other state agents to stop invading private property, he stated adding that some may be keen to take advantage of the lax land management regulations in Lamu.

Many of the invasions are spontaneous as the land invaders prey upon vulnerable land owners who do not have title deeds to their ancestral land.

Some of these gangs that are carrying out these land invasions have ties to Al Shabaab elements, and it is of concern to the government that they could cause violence under Jihadist claims, he added.

He said that the national government will deal with unscrupulous land developers who take away people’s land.

Similar sentiments over an increase in land invasion have also been raised by Lamu Senator Anwar Loitiptip who stated in a recent interview that he has a list of at least 20 individuals laying claim to more than 300,000 acres.

He added that Lamu’s land problems could be tied to the same land cartel that also has connections to drug running within the county.

These land cartels which have recently been accused of land invasions, have been quick to lay claim to community land that is currently under the custody of the county government, Anwar stated.

He however refused to divulge the names of individuals he suspects to be behind the land invasions in Lamu.

In November last year more than 3,000 squatters living in Mkunumbi stated that there was a private developer who was keen on instigating a land invasion on their 700 acre piece of ancestral land, and raised fears with the county government and the Lamu Women Representative Ms captain (rtd) Ruweida Obo.

However, a section of residents were skeptical over the county government’s commitment in ensuring that they do not lose their land especially since one of the alleged private land developers laying claim to the Mkunumbi land is alleged to be a well-connected land baron in Lamu.

Our cries for justice seem to always fall on deaf ears, and land issues are only tackled whenever there is an election in the corner, Rishad Abubakar, a squatter in Mkunumbi stated.

On its part the Lamu County government through its Lands County Executive Fahima Araphat refuted claims that the county was working in cohorts with the land barons whom she stated are also under investigation, with some of their titles under review.

We ask the security agencies to deal with these gangs, as they invade the land and later sell it to unsuspecting Kenyans for king’s ransom, moving fast to avoid being tied to the land parcels, Fahima stated.

She added that the Twaha administration is keen to resolve land issues in Lamu being one of the governor’s pledges.

President Uhuru Kenyatta in 2015 revoked the issuance of several title deeds in Lamu County, over fears that land cartels had grabbed large tracts of land.

Source: Kenya News Agency