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Meru residents protest KDF plan to take ancestral land

CHARLES WANYOROBy CHARLES WANYORO
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Residents of Tigania East, Meru County, have protested plans by the Kenya Defence Forces School of Artillery (78 battalion) to annex more than 20,000 acres of ancestral land.

They said the move will leave about 40,000 residents homeless and render useless nine schools, three AP camps, a dispensary and 13 boreholes.

Led by EALA MP Mpuru Aburi, the residents of Kandabene and Gambella said they will hold peaceful demonstrations at Muthara, the sub-county headquarters, on Thursday to push the government to reverse the move.

“The government has stopped annexing more tracts of land in Isiolo yet our people are being driven away. We will defy the move. We will petition President Uhuru Kenyatta to act,” Mr Aburi said after meeting the farmers.

NO COMPENSATION

Ms Rachael Nyamai, chairperson of the parliamentary committee on land, probed the matter and found the land was allocated to the KDF in 1977 but that residents were never compensated.

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Dr Nyamai noted that the government did not elaborate steps to compensate those whose land was seized.

“Although there was a Gazette notice (in 1977) inviting persons who had claims on the land to make application for compensations, the members of the public may not have had access to the notice. There was no evidence presented indicating whether any person ever lodged a claim,” she said.

The committee further accused KDF of causing confusion by only fencing off about 700 acres of the property, thereby encouraging encroachment.

“The failure by KDF to secure and demarcate the land contributed to residents settling on it,” the chair said.

Regarding this, Mr Aburi said residents thought the only land that belonged to KDF was that which was fenced off.

“The residents have stayed there for over 40 years. They have nowhere else to go. They have schools and other public facilities,” he said.

ADJUDICATION

Dr Nyamai also faulted the Lands ministry, saying it made adjudications on the land yet it had been allocated to the KDF.

The ministry declared the KDF parcel an adjudicated section in 2016, amended sectional boundaries in 2018 and then issued allotment letters.