UNFAIRNESS: The decision of the government has not augured well with the feelings of the leaders of the Empakasi Oolera Trust
BY CHEPKEMOI KURGAT – KNU SENIOR REPORTER
After several government task forces appointed to determine the ownership of a 10,000-acre land in Mavoko, the state has now hived off 2000 acres.
The land in question is Sheep and Goats’ on the border of the Kajiado Kaputiei Maasai and Machakos Kamba communities.
The last task force was formed by Lands CS Farida Karoney and gazetted under Gazette Notice No 12623 on August 28 last year.
On September 3 the government handed over 2,000 acres to the Nairobi National Park to support conservation efforts.
President Uhuru Kenyatta handed over a title deed for the land previously known as the Sheep and Goat Research Facility to the Ministry of Tourism and Wildlife.
The land will be under Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) protection. The handing over was done at State House.
The piece of land is located adjacent to the national park.
The formal acquisition of the title deed means the park will enlarge from the current 29,000 acres to 31,000 acres.
The decision of the government has not augured well with the feelings of the leaders of the Empakasi Oolera Trust that has been fighting for the return of what they call their ancestral land.
The trust has a working committee led by James Turere (chairman), Wilson Kisemei (Samuel Oiputa (Treasurer) and members; Jeremiah Kaloi, James Kisemei, Joseph Juma, Parmisa Semei and Wilson Kirayian.
Turere said on Friday: “We have been dubbed by the government in this. We have all along been thinking that all is well, but the action taken by President Kenyatta on November 3 is shocking to us.”
Turere said the community land in question was handed out to the colonial government in the mid1930s for livestock research-related services, and that after the land was abandoned, it should revert to the community.
“We are meeting today on Friday, November 6 as the community to debate on this issue. We feel an injustice has been visited on the community that has been struggling for decades to recover the land the colonialists robbed us,” said Turere.
While President Kenyatta was handing over the title he said: “For the first time since the Nairobi National Park was gazzetted, the government is allocating more land to conserve it for posterity”.
The land will provide a wildlife corridor on the Southern side of the park, connecting NNP, Swara and International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) conservancies in Machakos and beyond.
“Giving the title deed to Nairobi National Park enables the park to secure the much-needed space for wildlife and is a clear testimony of Kenya’s commitment to wildlife conservation. We must secure more space for wildlife habitat for posterity,” said Kenyatta.
The expansion comes at a time when environmental activists have decried increased human activity, construction and development in the park, including the construction of part of the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR).
The park holds a unique distinction as the only national park located in a metropolitan area anywhere in the world.
In a statement, the Ministry of Tourism and Wildlife noted that the park also faced threats due to human settlements adjacent to it.
“Due to reduced space for wildlife in the park, several animal species occasionally move out of the park to the adjacent communities in search of forage and water. In the process, it leads to human-wildlife conflicts outside the park.
“The Sheep and Goat Research Facility will therefore provide additional habitat to wildlife resulting in reduced conflicts between wildlife and people,” the statement read in part.
“I want to make it clear today to all the members that this farm belongs to Kaputiei community members and not a few individuals who have been going around cheating others that the farm is theirs,” said Turere on March 18, 2019.
“This is the only genuine trust that has the support of the entire Kaputiei community. The trust was formed with all the community members in mind, and we are not disturbed by any another splinter group that purports to be fighting for a share of this land,” said Nakuo.
The land in question is registered under Sheep and Goats Multiplication (L.R. 10029/2).
The said land was originally within Maasai Reserve as proclaimed in the Native Trust Ordinance, Kenya Gazette number 394 of December 3, 1926.
Turere said M/S Liebig (K) Ltd was granted a10-year leasehold starting from December 18, 1936.
In 1948, the company had their activities in the country transferred to former Tanganyika and the land was transferred to the Kenya Meat Commission.
He further claimed KMC later leased the said land from March 1, 1952, for use as a livestock holding ground until 1967 and in 1970, it handed the same to the Commissioner of Lands, which would later decide what to do with it.
The commissioner of lands, it was said, later handed over the same land to the Livestock Marketing Division in the Ministry of Agriculture, and in 1977 the division handed it over to the Sheep and Goats Project which is needed for breeding and multiplication.
While addressing journalist at the farm near Kitengela, Turere said in 1981, after consultations the Empakasi Community, was allocated 6,000 acres while the sheep and goat project was allocated 2,912 acres for the public good.
The community, he said, agreed to this arrangement with a caveat that if the project fails, the land must revert to them.
The project failed in the late ’80s and the government started dishing out the same land to politicians and other connected land grabbers.
The community has since remained hostile and no grabber has ever been able to access the land, claimed the community leaders.
They said some state agents have been colluding with cartels to grab the disputed ‘Sheep and Goat’ land that belonged to their ancestors but which was later forcibly taken during President Moi’s regime.
“This is the third task force we are appearing before. The first was the one initiated by George Saitoti. We later met a parliamentary group before this task force,” Sheep and Goat chairman James Turere said on March 18, 2019.
He spoke when they appeared before a task force on the current state of ownership of land in Mavoko and invasion by squatters in Athi River county chambers.
The task force was formed by Lands CS Farida Karoney and gazetted under Gazette Notice No 12623 on August 28, 2018.
The team headed by Paul Mwangi as its chairman includes Christopher Maina (ICT ministry), Joseph Njeru (Trade ministry), Dickson Magotsi (Interior), David Kiai (Agriculture and Irrigation), Ali Nuno (National Police Service), Everlyne Mutie (Machakos government), Christine Kanini (Office of the Attorney General), Joint Secretaries Purity Mwangi (Assistant Director, Lands Adjudication and Settlement) and David Nyandoro (Principal Land Registrar).
Turere said they were being oppressed since they (Maasais) are the minority in Mavoko.
He said the more than 2,000 squatters’ only left hope is the 2,912 acres of the disputed land they already occupy.
Turere said both the National Land Commission and the Parliamentary Committee on Lands had recommended that the land be reverted to residents. The first task force’s report stated otherwise.
“The first task force reported that the land belongs to the government. We have never seen the commissioners since then, we kindly request this commission to revert the land to us,” he said.