Land grabbers invade Kerio Valley over oil discovery


 

Residents of Kerio Valley have petitioned the Government to halt land adjudication in the region until ownership disputes among different clans have been addressed.

The petition comes against a backdrop of hostility worsened by the discovery of oil in the semi-arid region.

Traditionally, ‘special’ stones were used as boundaries between different clans but over time the beacons have been displaced, giving room to the ownership disputes. Trees and physical features like rivers and hills also acted as clan boundaries.

One clan has now come out to protest the planned adjudication, claiming they were displaced from their ancestral land by grabbers.

The Kapkomool clan in Keiyo South sub-county claims 5,000 acres have been grabbed and are being illegally adjudicated while a portion has already been sold.

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“We do not want strangers to take away our ancestral land after oil was discovered,” said John Chebii, the clan representative.

He alleged that some of his kin migrated to Uasin Gishu County in the 1950s but realised in 1985 that the land had been invaded by a rival clan.

“We have fought to get our land back since 1985 but no one has listened to us. The grabbers are now sub-dividing the land,” he protested.

Addressing the media in Iten town after presenting their petition to County Commissioner Fredrick Ndambuki, Mr Chebii prevailed on the Government to stop issuing the land grabbers with title deeds.

He said the invaders had degraded their land by cutting down trees for charcoal burning.

Dispute resolved

“The land adjudication should be suspended until the dispute is resolved,” said clan chairman Daniel Lonchoni.

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He accused county land officials of failing to act on their plea to halt adjudication despite their numerous petitions.

“We are aware that our land has been earmarked for prospecting oil but our ultimate objective is to get it back,” said the elder.

He said the clan should be allowed to sub-divide the land according to their traditional land adjudication system.

No titles

Keiyo North Deputy County Commissioner Sylvester Munyasia assured the clan members that no titles would be issued until the dispute was resolved.

Mr Munyasia said the local authorities would consult with relevant State agencies to address the issue.

Last year, Governor Alex Tolgos said the Ministry of Lands headquarters had prepared more than 13,000 title deeds that were to be given to the local community and possibly solve the longstanding feuds.

“Our first priority is to ensure that the residents of Kerio Valley where oil exploration is ongoing get title deeds to minimise land conflicts before extending to other areas,” said Mr Tolgos. 

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