Land and minerals volatile mix in battle for the coast

A titanium mine in Kwale County, where the Opposition accuses Jubilee and Governor Salim Mvurya of compromising the interests of the locals. [Photo:File, Standard)

A fortnight ago, President Uhuru Kenyatta went ballistic against Kwale County’s Wiper party governor candidate Chirau Mwakwere.

Besides being angered by Mr Mwakere’s nerve in ditching Jubilee Party while serving as Kenya’s High Commissioner to Tanzania, the President also took a dim view of what he described as Mwakwere’s smear campaign to portray the Jubilee government and Governor Salim Mvurya’s administration as having allowed the grabbing of land and minerals from Kwale residents.

The President’s sentiments were a pointer to the sensitivity of land in Coast politics where things are getting hotter with minerals in the mix – issues that will dominate the election agenda in this region.

“He (Mwakwere) has been going round claiming that Salim Mvurya joined Jubilee to steal the resources of Kwale people,” said Uhuru who was flanked by his deputy William Ruto and Mr Mvurya in Lunga Lunga.

Expose past

Uhuru threatened to expose Mwakwere’s alleged ‘past’ but the former Matuga MP said he was ready for the eventuality. He declared that he had his own dossier on who owns land in the Coast region and categorised the Jubilee regime as one of Kenya’s worst governments since independence.

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Deputy President William Ruto promised that minerals would not be taken from Kwale without the due process being followed contrary to the claims by the Opposition, but Mwakwere has relentlessly accused Mvurya’s administration of allowing foreign firms to clandestinely expand mining operations in the county.

Mvurya defected from ODM party to Jubilee last year and is now one of the Jubilee point men in the region.

Just like the late Kwale Senator Boy Juma Boy, Mwakwere has claimed that a top Jubilee politician has acquired thousands of acres in a mineral-rich portion of Kwale.

The county is rich in titanium and niobium (rare earth minerals) found in Maumba/Nguluku and Mrima Hills respectively hence the growing interest in the county.

Mr Boy had vehemently stood against the expansion of titanium mines to Mivumoni, claiming it was being forced on residents by some Jubilee leaders without adequate consultations, leading to a suspension of the plans.

Providing fodder

The land buying spree and secrecy behind the matter of expired 99-year leases is providing fodder for the Opposition, which has discredited Jubilee’s dishing out of title deeds as a superficial solution to the region’s land problem.

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National Super Alliance (NASA) presidential candidate Raila Odinga, Mombasa Governor Hassan Joho and Kilifi Governor Amason Kingi have since launched a stinging attack against Jubilee for failing to address land matters at the Coast. Meanwhile, one of Jubilee’s point men, Gideon Mung’aro, is mired in a land controversy of his own regarding the Chembe Kibabamshe settlement scheme in Kilifi County.

The Opposition leaders accused Jubilee of refusing to implement the Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission (TJRC) report that also focuses on historical land injustices at the Coast because of vested interests.

The basis of their argument is that the President’s family owns large tracts of land at the Coast, particularly in Taveta sub-county. Mr Kingi claims Jubilee cannot implement the reports because key Jubilee officials are implicated.

“I was astounded when the Jubilee brigade led by the President and Deputy President came to Kilifi and told us they didn’t want to hear about people complaining of historical injustices,” said Kingi.

Jubilee has claimed credit for tackling land issues at the Coast following the cancellation of 12 irregularly-allocated ranches in Lamu whose mess is blamed on Raila Odinga’s side when he served in the grand coalition government as prime minister, with his ally James Orengo as Lands minister.

Jubilee recovered 350,000 acres in Lamu, which was handed over to the county government for re-distribution to squatters.

While on a tour of Mombasa recently, Lands Cabinet Secretary Jacob Kaimenyi said the Jubilee government had made progress in the resettlement of squatters, adding that it would produce about 500,000 title deeds in the next six months to achieve its three million target by the end of this year.

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He said the Government had processed about 2.5 million title deeds since 2013 and cited the purchase of 930 acres of Evanson Waitiki’s farm in Likoni, Mombasa County, and allocation of the land to thousands of squatters who had occupied it in spite of protests by the county government.

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