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Citizen Weekly

Sunday, 25 January 2015

Tension palpable at Waitiki Farm after Ngilu buy-or-quit order

Barely a week after Lands cabinet secretary Charity Ngilu issued a directive that those who have been occupying the Waitiki land as squatters to immediately pay the owner of the land or face eviction, Likoni MP Masoud Mwahima has told the squatters to ignore the directive and stay put.
Now, tension is high in the area with the residents fearing their houses could be demolished. Mwahima who for years demanded that the squatters be allowed to own the land has warned them against making any payments and has demanded to know Waitiki Kamau came to own the 930-acre farm.
Mombasa Governor Hassan Joho had at one point said he would solicit for funds for the resettlement of the Waitiki squatters as well as those at Kibarani and Dunga Unuse villages but this is yet to happen. It is alleged Joho has been using the Waitiki farm to gain political mileage during electioneering period.
It has now emerged that Ngilu’s directive is a contradiction of her earlier statement and promise by President Uhuru Kenyatta that the government would compensate the owner and subdivide the land to the squatters.
Last year, a Mombasa Court issued order directing then Interior cabinet secretary Joseph Ole Lenku to evict the 120,000 squatters from the farm. The directive caught the National Land Commission and Mombasa county government officials by surprise. At one time, Ngilu met the squatters in Likoni and told them to stay put as government was sorting out the matter with Waitiki. In the run-up to the general election, Uhuru pledged to formally resettle the squatters on the Waitiki land once elected but this is also yet to happen.
“We are not going to pay Waitiki even a penny. We want to hear what the president is saying about this land because he is the one who promised us that he will settle us here and stop the owner and police from evicting us,” he said.
According to those who have been following up the saga, he allegedly bought the farm when he was aged 30 years. Waitiki who has been under pressure to explain how he acquired the farm has now broken the silence and revealed how the deal was cut.
“I bought the farm from Gulb Wood Company, which was owned by a renowned farmer in East Africa,” he said and also revealed that when he bought the land, the farm had 900 heads of cattle, 300,000 chickens, and seven vehicles.
To buy the land, he says, he got a loan of Sh1.2 million from the Agricultural Corporation Finance. He topped up the amount by selling his other pieces of land in Karen and Lavington to buy the land and all that was therein, including the cattle, chicken, farmhouses and vehicles. The farm which he bought in 1975 at Sh2m is now valued at Sh9.3b.
It is said after buying the land Waitiki resigned from his job and went into full-scale farming where he made more than Sh1m every month and comfortably repaid his AFC loan. The produce from the farm included fresh milk, beef, chicken and fruits. According to Waitiki, the farm’s products were popular in South Africa, Europe and even Saudi Arabia where he exported live animals.
The big question that remains unanswered is how the squatters found their way into his farm. According to Waitiki, in 1998, the infamous Likoni clashes broke out and he was evicted from his farm as the raiders slaughtered more than 1,000 heads of cattle and 800,000 chickens in the farm.
After the clashes ended and peace was restored, Waitiki was unable to reclaim his land for it had been taken over by squatters. Since then, he has been trying to reclaim the land. In 2001, he got eviction orders after a protracted legal battle between him and the state but  police did not honour the order.
The residents say he grabbed the land using his relationship with then President Jomo Kenyatta. Others claim that the land was a gift from Kenyatta. He has however denied the allegations that he is related to the Kenyatta family and insists he acquired land through his own effort.
On the orders Ngilu gave on paying Waitiki or facing eviction, Waitiki claims that he is ready to subdivide the land and sell to the squatters and keep a small portion where he plans to do large scale poultry farming. “Yes, I am ready to sub-divide the land and sell it to willing buyers but this does not mean I should be forced to sell it,” says Waitiki.
The squatters have built homes, churches, mosques, and businesses there. Several police stations have also been put up there. The eviction could have affected at least half the properties in the expansive Likoni area.
He further says that he is happy to have purchased the land when he did and says it is the turn of all the people in his farm to feel the pain he felt when he too was evicted. “No one can claim the farm belongs to them because they do not have documents. I have all the papers of ownership,” he says.