The residents of Mere sublocation in Malindi Sub County have called for a review of the current land laws which they claimed was tailored to favour foreigners at the expense of locals in the Coastal region.
They said the new land tenure system must address and reduce the duration of lease-holding as well as revoke freehold land titles belonging to present and absent foreigners, claiming they were the main contributors to the nagging squatter menace in the region.
The residents said that freeholding and the 99- and 999-year leases issued to foreigners during the pre-colonial and colonial periods, especially along the ten-mile strip, had led to many locals squatting on land belonging to absentee landlords.
The residents also complained that the archaic laws had made it difficult for them to search and ascertain the ownership of lands they and their ancestors have occupied for years as most of the records were yet to be digitized.
Speaking at the Ganda Baptist Church during a land awareness baraza organized by the Institute of Participatory Development-Kulamusana (IPD-K) in conjunction with the National Lands Commission and the County Government of Kilifi, the residents also called on the government facilitate the issuance of title deeds to squatters on land belonging to absentee landlords.
They said they had lived on land owned by unknown people for many years and efforts to conduct searches at the land registries in Kilifi and Mombasa to identify the owners with a view to negotiating with them had become futile as even the land registration numbers provided cannot be found at the registries.
An official from the Kilifi County Department of Lands, who cannot be named as they are not authorized to speak on behalf of the county government, conceded that it was difficult to conduct the searches to retrieve manual records stored in a strongroom at the Mombasa land registry.
“Since the records date back to more than 100 years, it is not very easy to retrieve them, especially those that do not have CR numbers,” the official said adding.
Mr. Kahindi Kitsao Mramba said the residents had been frustrated by the delay in getting searches and asked the government to speed up the process so they could know their fate.
Joseph Mwambire said the residents had suffered historical land injustice since the foreigns occupiers found locals on the land and called for speedy resolution of the injustices so that the residents can proudly own land and shed the tag of being squatters.
Similar sentiments were made by Esther Charo, who said her family had occupied the land for more than 120 years. She wondered why it had taken more than six months to conduct a search and asked the Ministry of Lands and the NLC to expedite the same.
Wilfred Mwamure, the chairman of the Majamere CBO, explained that the residents were eager to know the owners of the land with a view to negotiating with the land owners with a view to enabling the squatters to own the land.
“After we identify the genuine owners of the land, we shall have the ability to negotiate with them and even ask the government to buy the land and settle us,” he said.
IPD-K Executive Director Rahael Mzungu Ngoma called for political goodwill in handling the land question in the area, noting that politician had exploited the problem as a political tool that is forgotten after elections.