Taita Taveta senator embroiled in land grabbing saga involving 1,000 acres

Community members from Wanjala village, Kishushe location in Taita Taveta County are crying foul over land-grabbing activities by a top influential leader in the county.

Farming activities in Wanjala Village have come to a standstill as the residents live in tension following the land-grabbing activity that is ongoing in the area.

The emotional residents accused the area Senator of allegedly grabbing about 1000 acres of land earmarked for farming activities, the construction of a school and other social amenities for the development of the site.

The land subdivided into several sections already has a house constructed with armed police manning the area. Heavy construction machines have been clearing the bush on the land, a clear indication of a serious activity planned to be executed.

Filled with anger, the residents termed the move as illegal and a shameful move that an elected leader of the rank who is supposed to protect and defend them turns down their expectations by going against the law.

Speaking to NTV, the village elder Timothy Kiwanda, reiterated that he was shocked after receiving the information concerning the land-grabbing activity from 26 residents in May 2021.

Kiwanda, together with other leaders in the area, had no prior information about the new owner of the land as well as the activities taking place in the area stating that the residents’ are the rightful owners of the land.

“After personally attending and confirming the residents’ assertions, I went to my senior leaders to confirm whether they had prior information concerning the activities taking place in the area, but they were also shocked to learn that such an activity is taking place in the area spearhead by an influential leader in the county who is invading and grabbing residents’ land without following the legal protocols,” said Kiwanda

He then, through the village meetings with residents, called several individuals whom they suspected to be involved in the land-grabbing activity several times but in vain.

One person who failed to turn up or respond to the call two times ended up responding through a letter on their third attempt disclosing that he was using the area to graze his livestock but after losing the animals, he lost interest in keeping the animals and when called by the Senator who requested for the space, he gave out the grazing area to the Senator to do his projects but he did not sell the land to him.

“One person responded to our letter by another letter after failing to turn up two times. While responding he said what took him there is the grazing land but he had no plans about the land. He was called by the Senator who asked him if he was still using the grazing area, but since he had lost over 400 livestock, he was scared off and was not using the place. He decided to let the Senator use the land for his projects but he had not sold it out to him,” said the village elder in reference to the letter.

Kiwanda stated that what is shocking is that the grazing area has resulted in the construction of a building and subsequently the building has developed into a huge piece of land. “What is shocking is, the grazing area gave birth to a house, and the house has given birth to the piece of land. Where will the rightful owners go?” He posed.

The village elder added that the Senator called him on phone urging him to sign a letter to allow the Senator to bring in Power-Saw to clear the land but he turned him down stating that by him signing it, it could mean that he has officially granted him rights to the land.

“There was a day he called me at around 10:00 pm requesting for my signature so that he would be able to bring in a Power-Saw to clear the land but I turned him down because if I sign for him it means I would have given him the land,” said Kiwanda.

He further disclosed that despite his denying his signature, the Power-Saws were brought and they were working on the land without his consent, which left him in a dilemma as he couldn’t tell who signed on behalf of the chairman.

The village elder termed the act illegal and urged the residents to shun anything that may cause bloodshed and continue following the right channels as they seek justice.

Meanwhile, according to Daniel Mwadime who is a resident and one of the affected people, they had a meeting with the Senator who confirmed what was contained in the letter and that he saw it was a bushy area and that’s why he decided to clear and put up a house.

“By good luck, he confirmed the statements contained in the letter by the person who was previously settling in the area saying that it’s true he has no land there but he was given a grazing area and when he saw it was bushy, he decided to put up a house but he does not own the land,” said Mwadime.

Mwadime reiterated that the Senator went against the law and that he should leave the land for the rightful owners or follow the right channels of acquiring land from the owners.

He said that tension and anxiety were rising each day over the ownership of the land as the invaders bragged for protection from the armed police. He called upon the State to address the issue expeditiously to avoid bloodshed.

“We are calling on the government to stand with us and address this matter with the seriousness it deserves,” he said.

Speaking to NTV over the allegations, Senator Johnes Mwaruna stated that the particular land in question is part of the 18,000-acre ranch that was set aside for adjudication and that residents were taking the land for free as they waited for adjudication and later on obtaining the title deed.

The Senator confirmed that the land he is occupying belonged to another person who had a ranch but later moved out. He added that the land does not belong to anyone and that is why he decided to do the project on it.

“The place that I occupied, there was another person who had a ranch and he moved from there and I asked him to occupy it because I wanted to put some animals,” said Sen. Mwaruma.

Mwaruma noted that due to extreme drought conditions in the area, he decided to take a piece of land in which he was planning to drill water for the wild animals that were dying because of lack of water.

This he said is because the land is near the Tsavo East National Park fence.

“I actually called them and we chat together and I told them what I want is not land. What I want is a place I can invest in,” he said.

The Senator disclosed that as part of the project, he is planning to put up cottages in the land where people can sleep, creating jobs for the residents and doing feedlot business.

Further, Mwaruma noted that he is not alone in the project and that it is a Community Based Organization (CBO) of 20 people called Taita Taveta Economic Acceleration and Transformation Project (TTEATP). “I am not alone, we are in a CBO of 20 people. It is called the Taita Taveta Economic Acceleration and Transformation Project. It is registered as a CBO,” he added.

Following the allegations by the residents that the land in question is 1000 acres, the Senator could not give the acreage of the land in question stating that what he did was just clearing the bush whose size have not been determined.

He however noted that the land under him is about 50 acres and is far from the residential area.
“That is a bushy area and they will never occupy that place without water. There is no one in that land. They live over 17 kilometers away. I have taken around 50 acres, maybe it could be 20 acres more. It’s when I came in that they also started to cut down trees,” he noted.

He reiterated that he has not grabbed anyone’s land and that he is part of the community and that he has the right to own the land as he awaits adjudication.

“I know my grandfather used to be a rancher. Mzee Johnes Mwashushe was part of Kishushe ranch. And we are supposed to get land there,” said Mwaruma.

Meanwhile, commenting on the deployment of armed officers to man the area, the Senator stated that they are there to take care of the machines operating in the land which are costly. “I have deployed the police because that shovel which I have placed there to do the cultivation is someone’s property worth 10 million which must be protected,” he said.

According to Mwaruma, the move is a plot to ruin his political career and which will not bore any fruit. “When they go to the media and want the story out, what is the ultimate goal they want to achieve? To ruin my political career,” he remarked.

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