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STANDARD ON SUNDAY: September 8, 2013, Pgs 27,

Is Jubilee using title deeds as political bait to bag the Coast?

Updated Sunday, September 8th 2013 at 10:11 GMT +3

President Uhuru Kenyatta presents land papers to a Kwale resident on Monday.  [PHOTO: FILE/ STANDARD]


KENYA: The week-long exercise to issue 66,000 title deeds at the Coast presided over by President Uhuru Kenyatta has been clouded by high octane politics.

But undeterred by protests, President Kenyatta warmed his way into the hearts of residents of the region by presenting the largest number of title deeds in history to squatters.

The President brushed aside hostility from a group of leaders in the region, who were opposed to the issuance of title deeds after fears were raised about the identity of recipients. Critics also questioned how such a large number of title deeds could have been processed without the input of local leaders and wondered how the beneficiaries were identified.

Senior Ministry of Lands officials took time to explain that the title deeds were not all new and that quite a number of the land ownership documents had been lying at the ministry headquarters for decades dating back to independence. Reasons for the delay in issuing of the deeds were not explained.

Long held tradition

In distributing the title deeds, the President was perfecting a tradition that has been established and nurtured by former presidents. Jomo Kenyatta, Daniel arap Moi and Mwai Kibaki used title deeds as a bait to win political support.

It would appear that the politics of title deeds would continue overshadowing the much talked about land reforms as envisioned in the new Constitution.

In the morning of August 30, 2006 President Mwai Kibaki presented title deeds to residents of the then Kilifi District at the Karisa Maitha Grounds and promised that it was only the beginning in resolving land woes in the Coast region.

Kibaki reassured people in the region that his government would ensure that land issues in Kilifi District and beyond would be a thing of the past. “We will not stop until the problem of landlessness in the district is resolved because residents of Kilifi and Coast Province as a whole have a right to own land,” said President Kibaki. He assured those present the Government would not allow absentee landlords hold onto land that would otherwise be put to better use by residents.

President Kibaki had at the time started his 2007 re-lection campaign and it appeared he wanted to endear himself to voters in the region. He had been in office since 2002.

“I will continue issuing title deeds in the province until the squatter problem in the region is completely resolved, you have every right to own land and we will not allow absentee landlords to frustrate these efforts,” he said.

Big value

“The title deeds for the 60,000 we have given to you are worth over Sh20 billion. You need to take them seriously, let’s use this value to benefit us,” he said. Over 19,000 land title deeds were distributed in Kilifi County, 3000 in Mombasa, 2000 in Lamu, and the remaining 36,000 in Kwale, and Taita Taveta counties.

Cord coalition leader Raila Odinga claimed that the exercise was an attempt to win political support from the Coast region.

The region overwhelmingly voted for Cord leaders in the last general elections. Raila said the president should have left the exercise to the National Land Commission instead of doing clerical work. But President Kenyatta and his entourage were keen to dissociate the exercise from politics and categorically said it was part of its coalition’s manifesto.

“This is not politics. We are cannot be playing politics with the lives of the people when we know very well that for us to turn around the region, we need to empower people,” said the President. Mr Ruto said they knew that the region voted for their rivals but since they were running the government, no one would be left out including those who did not vote for them.

“Sisi tunajua mlitukaranga lakini tuko tayari kufanya kazi pamoja, (we know you denied us votes, but we are ready to work together). We want to end this land problem once and for all so that it stops been a campaign issue,” he said.


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