NAIROBI, Kenya, Feb 28 – It is the dream of every Kenyan to own a piece of land where he or she can either put up a home or for commercial use.
But don’t be too fast.
In Athi River area of Machakos County, police have warned that you should not buy land between Mto wa Mawe and Prima Rosa, since it belongs to the East African Portland Cement Company despite mounting invasion by land grabbers.
“People who are buying land there are the ones who are fanning their illegal activities,” Athi River Deputy County Commissioner Geoffrey Omoding told Capital FM News on Tuesday, just days after a violent clash on the disputed land.
“They are minting money from innocent Kenyans.”
Land cartels, majority operating from Nairobi and other surrounding areas according to detectives, have been selling an acre at Sh1 million to unsuspecting Kenyans who continue to lose their money in a sham investment.
Omoding has termed the land issues revolving around the over 13,000 acre Portland land as a security threat, since already some politicians have gained interests in the land and hope to gain mileage by promising the electorate ‘free’ land.
There is a Nairobi ‘private developer’ and another group – largely consisting of local communities – claiming a share of the land and continue to engage violently in all cases leading to loss of lives.
“This is a case whereby a thief wants to evict another thief,” he cautioned.
Last Friday two groups – one from Nairobi and another currently living on the land – faced off leading to the death of five people and arrest of more than a 100 youths in what police say was a near carnage if they had not moved in.
“Many more people would have been killed if the police just sat down because there is a court order restraining us,” he said. “They restrain us and continue invading the land.”
Omoding has urged the courts to consider the plight of Kenyans who are being conned by heartless land grabbers, and instead withdraw court orders restraining police from evicting people who have already built houses and other structures on the land.
– THE ROLE OF POLITICIANS –
He says local politicians – who he did not mention are financing “professional squatters” to invade the land for political mileage even as land cartels continue selling portions of it.
“Politics should be removed from the land issues. What we have are not squatters but professional squatters,” he said. “This kind of impunity is what we want to stop. Politicians who will be bent on assisting the criminals will be named and shamed.
The number of people that came (on Friday) was large. The government is trying to investigate the faceless people behind them…we are starting from the known to the unknown. We will get them!”
Police warn that the politicians are using the tribal card to push their agenda.
“They want to bring issues of a tribe and so on…this is a serious security threat more so in an electioneering year,” he cautioned.
“Because we are going towards elections, we want to ask our youths not to be misused by politicians. Some of them are trying to purchase crude weapons to be used on other Kenyans. This is our country and we should not allow our generation to be destroyed by the people who want to benefit from these criminal activities.”
– THREE MAIN SUSPECTS –
Athi River Police Chief Sharma Wario says already they are narrowing down on a senior politician and two land grabbers behind the recent confrontation over the land.
One of the suspects was involved in similar clashes last year that claimed 15 lives, according to Wario.
“The evidence that we are trying to piece together is whether the information we are getting can link the same individual to what happened on Friday,” he said.
He warned that police will not be held back by court orders as “Kenyans butcher each other.”
“If there is no court order, these people will not have even been there,” Wario said. “Let us be blamed for disobeying a court order, but at least we have been able to save as many lives as possible.”
– DEATH TOLL INCREASE –
The total number of people killed on February 24 has risen to five after one body was recovered and another person succumbed to injuries while undergoing treatment at the hospital.
“We are dealing with people whose real faces are not known,” the police boss said during an interview with Capital FM News, which was after a security meeting with area detectives.
The three who were killed had hijacked a minibus in a bid to escape after it occurred to them that they would be overwhelmed by the local groups.
A group of boda-boda riders followed the vehicle until they caught up with them where there was traffic jam, and proceeded to kill them using arrows and stones.
“Those who we arrested were even thanking us because they could have been killed,” he said.
“It is very sad that there is a court order barring police from interfering with them but we could not sit and watch two groups kill each other. This is unacceptable and that is why we moved in to restore law and order.
-YOUTHS MANNING THE LAND-
A spot check by Capital FM News shows that construction is still ongoing in the vast land.
They youths manning one of the disputed section are divided into groups covering a wide area.
The Capital FM crew that went to monitor the situation was pursued by boda-boda riders who demanded to know who we were and our business there.
We managed to warm our way out of the tricky situation.
“Oh okay, you guys are lucky…” one said while some took control of the exit route. “We thought the Nairobi group had come back.”
We however sped off obvious of the growing tension, as some did not ‘buy’ our explanation.