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Govt officials grabbed squatters' land

01 August 2013, 17:02 Mwangi Karanja

The parliamentary committee on land has been notified of how government officials in former regimes allocated to themselves plots at Chepchoina settlement scheme leaving out thousands of legitimate squatters.

In 1994, the former Rift Valley Provincial Commissioner (PC) Ishmael Chelang'a initiated a plan that would have seen pastoral communities who have been engaging in cattle rustling in area given land to make them stop over dependency on animal husbandry which was propelling the menace.

Nevertheless, the move was hijacked by government officials with reports indicating that they were allocating to themselves more than 200 acres of land per person.

The committee that is on a fact finding mission in the County, led by its chairman Hon. Alex Muiru, on Monday held a series of meetings with political leaders from the area including area MP Dr. Robert Pukose and his Counterpart from Kwanza Ferdinand Wanyonyi.

Threatens peace and stability

Muiru promised that the committee would ensure that all legitimate squatters are given land as the matter threatens peace and stability of the Trans Nzoia and West Pokot Counties.

“We want to ensure that Kenyans live in harmony with each other. That is why we will consider all communities that dwell in the area during allocation of land,” he said.

He said that his committee had learnt that there was double allocation of land with every person coming into power giving out an allotment later to his people.

He pointed out that the issue had created tension in the area from the year 1994 as the number of people masquerading as squatters skyrocketing violence saying that the area remains underdeveloped due to the conflict.

“The issue must be settled soon to allow development in the area as it is agriculturally rich and people must be given opportunity to exploit this resource for them to uplift their deteriorating standards of living,” he added.

The County settlement officer Francis Operia had a rough time explaining to the committee how double allocation came to be and yet the ministry of land at that time had the map of the area.

Operia explained that he was ordered by Chelang’a and former Agriculture Development cooperation (ADC) MD to give land to all people he had issued with letters.

Among those who benefited from the scam include former Kapenguria MP Julius Murgor who was allocated 60 acres, Sigor MP Philip Rotino 178, Abraham kamakil  (30 acres) and the Ministry of Water, Environment and Natural Resources Principal Secretary James Teko who has 82 acres in the settlement scheme.

Kwanza MP Ferdinand Wanyonyi on his part alleged that majority of those who were given land were outsiders and yet the County has more than 25 000 squatters adding that historical injustices should be dealt with to ensure the residents are given land.

However, Endebbes MP Dr. Robert Pukose took issues with Wanyonyi saying that the MP did not understand the reason as to why the settlement initiative was rolled out.

He said that the land was given to Pokot, Turkana, Sabaot and Luyha Communities so as to end the menace of cattle rustling and bringing in the issue of historical injustices would create more tension as the legitimate owners of the land are well known but all communities in the area had resolved to reside together.

“It is not good to try to alienate others by coming up with certain issues. Let us embrace togetherness for the betterment of the County,” said Pukose.

Other MPs who had accompanied the committee members include Regina Nyeris who is the West Pokot County MP and Kapenguria MP Samuel Moroto who said that every Kenyan has a right to be given land.

Moroto said that he is ready to give 2 ½ acres, land that he was allocated when he was still a teacher in 1994, back to squatters.

Trans Nzoia County commissioner Charity Chepkonga urged the committee to settle the issue as it affects development of the County.

By the time of going to press, the Committee was meeting the Squatters at Chepchoina.

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