Land fraudsters breed slums in coastal towns
Life in Shonda area in the remote parts of Likoni sub-county is relatively calm and inviting. Here, residents go about their daily business as per norm.
The moment of peace appears to coat and clearly belies recurrent tension over land that has been synonymous with this area for years now.
In this area where tension of multiple land disputes have been simmering following emergence of groups of fraudsters, posing as land owners, who have reportedly developed tendencies to colonise empty parcels and subdivide them to unsuspecting squatters.
At the centre of the dispute is an expansive private farm believed to be up to 72 acres occupied by 2,000 families.
A private developer (a sitting Cabinet Secretary) claims ownership of the farm, but the families occupying the land also say they are the ‘rightful owners’ of portions bought from ‘local youth groups’.
Former Mombasa County Commissioner Evans Achoki who served at the coastal town for close to four years before being moved, says the fraudsters that are mostly comprised idle youths, randomly forage parts of Likoni for unoccupied land, then pose as genuine owners before subdividing it.
After subdivision, he says, the “landowners” begin to sell out the portions unceremoniously to desperate land buyers.
“Land is being bought and sold so carelessly the way hawkers sell fruits on the streets and in the market…this trend is disturbing,” he says.
The trend is spreading fast in the area where the said groups have continued to invade land and openly con people to purchase subdivided portions without providing genuine documents.
As a result, authorities are concerned that unsuspecting squatters falling prey to the situation are invading the area in droves to settle with some erecting permanent structures haphazardly, slowly creating slums.
A similar scenario is in Shikadabu area also in Likoni where private land invasion by squatters is the order of the day.
Only a stone’s throw away from this area, the popular story of the expansive Waitiki land where the government secured a payout of Sh1.2 billion to settle squatters on the 930 acre farm is still fresh.
It is for this reason that authorities warn if the trends in Shonda and Shikadabu are left unchecked, the situation could escalate into another “Waitiki-like” situation where squatters invaded a private land and started claiming ownership.
Mombasa County Lands and Housing executive Edward Nyale, regrets that as a result land set aside for important projects has fallen in the hands of the vicious squatters who are now claiming ownership.
According to Nyale, public land parcels which are meant to undertake serious projects like Technical University of Mombasa campus, water desalination plant, a dumping site and fish processing plant have also been invaded by squatters in the process.
The executive said a recent probe established that more than 20 land parcels in the area have been acquired with fake title deeds which are now in the process of being revoked.
“Why do you give out Sh40,000 just like that to buy land as if you are buying a cow, then you just seat and watch as people divide your money? Land matters should follow the correct procedure.
It has to undergo planning, survey, search, adjudication, among other procedures…,” says the executive.
Such is the deeply rooted problem of commercial squatters on the prowl at the Coast, who traverse the region taking advantage of every idle land on sight to subdivide and eventually sell to unsuspecting squatters.
Mombasa-based NGO Ujamaa Centre executive director Eunice Adhiambo is of the view that government payouts to have squatters settled like in the case of Waitiki land had set a bad precedent in solving land issues.
According to Adhiambo, it is such moves which encourage, commercial land invasion adding the move on the Waitiki property could be the trigger to fresh invasions and occupation of private land.
“The country followed the Waitiki issue with very keen interest and definitely the commercial squatters were delighted by the government’s gesture… Many watched as squatters invaded land, subdivided and sold out to other squatters who later got settled in the payout,” says the director.
To avoid further such incidents, she says it is important that the government enforce the law on land ownership.
“People should not be encouraged to invade land and occupy without genuine land ownership documents. This is a criminal offence,” she says.