KAJIADO, Kenya (PAMACC News) - The dead, the living and the unborn in Kajiado County are all crying for justice.
The dead’s voices lament from the graves at the fear that any time, they can be exhumed from their final resting places. The living are crying for justice to own pieces of land they inherited from their fore-bearers.
They talk in hushed voices, looking over their shoulders to know if the rich and powerful have come to evict them. They fear that when they die, they will have no place to be buried and their bodies thrown to the wild animals.
The unborn don’t see a future where they can inherit a piece of land from their parents where they can construct a manyatta to call home. Their parents have been robbed of their inheritance by the politicians, the rich and public servants who are paid by their taxes.
Such is the sad story of the Maasai community-the locals of Kajiado County in the Rift Valley. Kajiado measures 21,901 square kilometres and borders Nakuru, Nairobi and Kiambu to the north, Narok to the west, Makueni and Machakos to the east and Taita-Taveta and Tanzania to the south.
The original inhabitants who are pastoralists have been reduced to squatters in the own land and majority of them have no land or home. Thousands of hectares of their land has been grabbed, exposing them to a life of penury, where they can’t even bury their dead.
They wake up every day knowing that before the end of the day, some of them will be evicted from their land, arrested for being trespassers, hauled into security vehicles and transported to police cells. The elderly, youth, men and children are all targets of this brutality, meted out by land grabbers.
Such are the realities that many families that are the original owners of Iloodo-Ariak group ranch in Kajiado, including those of Saitaga Ole Tumusi, Lioke Ole Sululu, Simon Ole Nandeya, Kilusu family and Jeremiah Shukuru.
Tumusi lost his wife in 2017 and that is when he knew that the land he has for decades called his was owned by a different person, who was not a local there.
“I brought the body of my wife to bury but was confronted by armed police who told me that I am a squatter and can’t bury my wife there. Community members came to my rescue by engaging the police in running battles as we laid to rest my wife,” Tumusi says.
Since then, he has been evicted many times but his efforts to secure their land through petitions to court and National Land Commission (NLC) have not borne any fruit.
Ole Sululu, aged 86, is a worried man as he has witnessed his community members being subjected to untold suffering on land that they inherited from their parents.
“I was in the initial committee of members in 1979 when government said they wanted us to be given title deeds for ownership. But since most of us were illiterate, I saw our land given to outsiders. When I objected, I was removed from the committee,” the old man says.
Now he watches with tears in his eyes as his community members are evicted and arraigned on fictitious charges and as the community’s animals die because of lack of pasture. The Maasai are pastoralists whose livelihoods depend on cattle, sheep and goats.
Nandeya, aged 55 and a father of 10 has been in and outside police cells for resisting evictions and now fears for his life as he is a marked man.
“All my age-mates don’t own land here. We are squatters on our own land. We are being arrested everyday but our cries for justice fall on deaf ears. Politicians who lie to us during campaigns that they will help us, abandon us after we elect them,” Nandeya says.
He faults national and county lands officials for perpetrating the ills against the Masaai community but vows that they will not give up what they know belongs to them.
“I have witnessed how a former lands minister sat in Nairobi and subdivided our land before allocating himself, his wife, his children and friends thousands of hectares of our land,” Nandeya says.
He also names county lands officials as some of the biggest land owners in the region, yet they don’t belong to the community.
“There are three notorious lands officials who are based in the county. One if from Kisii, one is Kamba and the last one a Kikuyu. They are from the survey and adjudication offices. These men are slowly killing us. One of them has 40 pieces that totals to 15,000 acres,” Nandeya says.
His wife was recently arrested together with his eight year-old kid and spent two days in the police cells.
“Community members had to intervene and help me get a lawyer who managed to secure her freedom by getting her out on bond. But her case number CR 504/2019 is still on going at Ngong law court,” Nandeya says.
The family’s lawyer Wanjiku Thiong’o confirmed that she is representing them.
“We have a pending criminal case where his wife has been charged for refusing to vacate property which is not hers. The historical injustice being directed at these people should stop. This should not be happening in a democratic country,” Ms Thiong’o says.
The Standard investigations revealed that the officials illegally acquire the land by forging signatures of the living and the dead and transfer their pieces to themselves and their friends. They then use force to evict the original community land owners.
Kilusu family is made up of orphans after both their parents and Shukuru, who is a community mobiliser has been trying to assist the family to no avail.
“The politicians who have bought our land compromise the judiciary and the police and use them to harass us. When we go to court, we are slapped with hefty fines of bonds of Sh300,000 and above. Unemployed orphans can’t afford this money,” Shukuru says.
The undeserved owners who have no interest to stay in the land or develop it, have taken bank loans worth millions of shillings, further mortgaging the Maasai and their future generations to come.
Some of the affected plots are Kajiado/Illodo-Ariak 743, 745, 244, 1183, 747, 836, 831, 906, 609, 1185 and 1186.
The suffering of the people of Kajiado is captured in the Lawyer Paul Ndung’u commission report of 2013 that was gazetted by former president Mwai Kibaki to inquire into illegal and irregular allocation of public land in Kenya.
The report names Iloodo-Ariak, Mosiro and Elangata Wuas group ranches in Kajiado as good examples of the abuse of the adjudication processes by ignoring the rights of the local people under customary law.
“The Iloodo-Ariak land is situated south-west of Nairobi in Kajiado. It is occupied by 6,000 indigenous Maasai Kenyans. The land was by all accounts, trust land. It belongs to the local residents of the area. By virtue of section 114 of the Constitution of Kenya, the land was vested in the Olkejuado county council to hold in trust for the Ilkeekonyokie clan of the Maasai community,” the Ndung’u report says.
The report shows that the area was declared an adjudication section in 1979 within the meaning of section 5 of the Land Adjudication Act.
“Subsequently, adjudication officials were appointed and posted to the area. The process of adjudication was completed in 1989 and the adjudication register published for inspection and objections invited within 60 days.
“After investigations, the commission found the adjudication process was fraudulent. The names of many government officials including those of their relatives and friends were entered on the register as owners of land. A total of 362 persons who were not local residents of the area were recorded as owners of land and issued with title deeds,” the report shows.
It further shows that many rightful inhabitants of the area were omitted from the register and disinherited from their ancestral land.
“This process violated the Constitution of Kenya. Trust land belongs to the people ordinarily resident in the area in which it is situated. The local people own that land in accordance with applicable customary law. The rights of the local people should not be defeated,” the commission advises.
The commission also found that similar fraud was perpetrated by the government officials during the adjudication in Mosiro, also in Kajiado where the faulty adjudication process excluded over 1,000 people who are the rightful owners of the land in the area.
The commission indicts key public officers who abused their offices in the allocation of public land and acted in total disregard of the substantive and procedural law relating to the allocation of public land.
“Some of the officials did not view their offices as positions of public trust meant to safeguard public land for present and future generations and the general economic welfare of the country. Some of the activities of the officials indicate that criminal offences may have been committed warranting further investigations into their activities,” the commission says.
Apart from politicians and government employees perpetrating land injustices, the case of Elangata Wuas brings on board new players in the con game in the name of big business companies and ranch officials turning against their own.
The land fraud in Kajiado is even captured in Dr Marcell Rutten’s book titled Selling wealth to buy poverty: the process of the individualization of landownership among the Maasai pastoralists of Kajiado district, Kenya, 1890-1990
Rutten, a senior researcher at the African Studies Centre in Leiden in the Netherlands carried out the fieldwork for his book in the 1988-1989 period. His book analyses land use and ownership of the Maasai pastoralists in Kajiado.
The book advises against massive individualization of land tenure which leads to loss of grazing pastures, too small individual holdings and raised fears that this will result in the selling of land to outsiders.
And it did.Taiko Lemayian, one of the data clerks for Dr Rutten in 1989 who is a resident of Elangata Wuas group ranch has witnessed his cousin and many other community members lose ownership of their land through fraud.
Elangata group ranch lies in Kajiado County, Elangata Wuas sub county in Loodokilani ward in Kajiado West constituency.
Initially, the ranch measured 475,000 hectares in size with a membership of 489 members in a population of approximately 11,832 people, according to the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) 2017 estimates.
Standard investigations show that from 1972 when the group ranch was duly registered, the group ranch officials who subsequently subdivided the communal ranch were elected on the 26th of September 1997 and issued with a certificate of incorporation No. 0070
On 26th of March 1990, the Director of Lands Adjudication granted the consent to the committee to dissolve the group ranch and subdivide it to individual members and the land control board approved consequently though minutes are not available in Kajiado land control board records.
During the 29th of April 1990 annual general meeting (AGM), the members of the group ranch resolved to hire Geo Data Land Surveyors and Consultants to commence on subdivision of the ranch after entering into contractual agreement on the 24th of August 2001.
The group ranch committee in consultation with the District Lands Office and the private surveyor, agreed that each and every individual member shall be entitled to land parcel of approximately 109.3 HA (270acres) after lands for public use is set aside vide an Official Area List developed on the 12th of May 2005 by Masers Geo Data Land Surveyors and Consultants of Box 53870, Nairobi.
Records seen by The Standard show that a total of 493 portions of land measuring approximately 109.3 hectares (270acres) were curved out for members. Thus an extra four parcels were demarcated with 22 parcels of different sizes ranging from approximately 163.9 hectares being the largest and five hectares being the smallest were designated as public land and a further 583.7 hectares was take-up by roads
Over time, several parcels of land designated for public use namely: Kjd/Elangata Wuas/773, Kjd/Elangata Wuas/776, Kjd/Elangata Wuas/782, Kjd/Elangata Wuas/791 and others were fraudulently sold out to unsuspecting buyers or un-procedurally subdivided further and sold out as plots.
The members suspecting foul play, petitioned NLC and Commissioners Abdulkadir Adan Khalif and Dr Clement Isaiah Lenachuru visited the group ranch on the 27th of August 2013 and held meetings with the complainants.
The meetings between the NLC commissioners were held on the 16th of September 2013, on the 23rd of September 2013 and finally on the 4th of November 2013 before handing over the process to the County Land Management Board (CLMB).
The CLMB held a series of meeting with the community member’s representatives and group ranch officials, and made visits of the group ranch site on numerous occasion before the board was disbanded under unclear circumstances.
The Standard established that the process of land adjudication and titling of the former Elangata Wuas Group Ranch has been marred by lots of illegal alienation of land, illegal acquisition and sale of individual and public land, land extortion, forceful relocation of politically incorrect members, disinheritance of widows, orphans and the poor.
There are also multiple land allocation to group ranch officials and their close associates among many other malpractices together with requisite evidence provided severally to relevant authorities in Kajiado County and at the National Government but help is yet to come.
In a brazen case of man eat man, the Elangata Wuas group ranch officials
Kanchori Sinkeen (chairman), Daniel Kishil Nkinyi (secretary), and Amos Tataiyia (treasurer) hatched a scheme where they produced two lists of their members. One without names and another with names where they could add names of non-members. The trio allocated themselves and their relatives and friends more pieces of land.
They then sold whole pieces or subdivided them and sold them to non-members.
For example, on April 3, 2013, they were given consent by the Kajiado Central chairman to subdivide plot number 786 that does not belong to them.Many searches at the county land’s registry also shows that they are registered owners of mutiple plots which they sell and make millions of shillings. This is against the members’ agreement that each members was only entitled to 109.3 hectares.
The members are now appealing to President Uhuru Kenyatta to order the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI), Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) and Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) to investigate the matter, revoke titles of non-members and give the land to its rightful owners.
EACC spokesman Yassin Amaro promised that the commission will investigate the matter. Kajiado County chief executive office for land sand planning Hamilton Parseina acknowledged receiving a petition from the members and promised to look into the matter.
The story was first published by The Standard Media Group as part of Protus Bertha Foundation 2019/2020 Fellowship.
The writer is a Bertha Fellow.