Grabbers have invaded land belonging to Kenya’s military and delineated large swathes for individual use, Lands minister James Orengo has said.
Speaking Tuesday in a meeting with Parliament’s Defence and Foreign Relations Committee, the minister mentioned two cases in which land-grabbers, working in cahoots with some officials of the military, quietly took over sections of land in Nairobi’s Embakasi and Karen areas.
The other invasion of the military’s property has been by communities in Samburu, Kilifi and Uasin Gishu counties.
“It is a situation where people acquire government land, do nothing with it and proceed to sell it to the government at exorbitant prices,” the minister said.
Mr Orengo told MPs Adan Keynan, George Nyamweya and Wilson Litole, that the grabbing had taken place with the help of “well-connected individuals” both in government and within the military.
He cited a case in which a priest flashed USD1 million worth of investment in exchange for a parcel of land in Karen for the construction of a hospital to take care of orphans. As soon as the military gave out the land, the said investor then applied for subdivision of the property into 23 units, all of which were later sold.
The minister added that the official residence of the Vice President in Karen, currently under construction, is standing on one of the plots. All the palatial homes resting on that land may have to be brought down if the government moves to repossess the land.
Mr Orengo then added that another developer had managed to get a large parcel of land (nearly 100 acres) in between the military garrison in Embakasi and the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport. The MPs expressed worry that if such land is subdivided and sold to third parties, it will pose a “serious threat” to the country’s security.
“What will happen if some al shabaab or some al Qaeda operatives buy that land? Where will be the security of this country?” posed Mr Litole.
The MPs asked the minister to go ahead and take over all the land that had been allocated to the military.
“If I were you, I’d ask for the register and cancel all those titles,” said Mr Keynan, the chairman of the committee. He said the team had received anonymous letters from some senior military personnel questioning the blatant grabbing of public land.
Mr Orengo said that the Attorney General had already advised that any public land sold to third parties will be repossessed, but added that it was difficult for the Commissioner of Lands to stop the transactions.
“If the military has land and allows people to invade it, the commissioner of lands has no powers to step in…it is the owner of the land who should hold his forte,” said Mr Orengo.
When challenged why he didn’t delve into the history of pieces of land before issuing titles, Mr Orengo said that from where he sits, it was illegal for public land to be delineated and allocated to individuals.
“If it is public land, they cannot sell it,” said Mr Orengo.
He also noted that in Uasin Gishu County, the land around the bullet factory has also been grabbed. He said the original owners had been paid off when the government acquired the land, but then, some well-connected individuals had come back to occupy the land and now they’ll demand compensation before vacating it.
“That land legally belongs to the military, but how to deal with that may be extremely difficult because of political considerations,” he told the MPs.
The minister said the case for Archers Post in Samburu was a little complicated because schools, markets and even government buildings had come up alongside individual property on what is military land.
The lawmakers said they were ready to bite the bullet and promised to recommend to Parliament that all illegal settlers on military land should be evicted.