Kilifi North MP Owen Baya has cited failure by the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) task force to include his proposal on historical land injustices as the reason for opposing the document.
The MP said he had asked for the inserting of clauses in the Constitution to address the absentee landlords issue. Many families are squatters on their ancestral land.
Addressing journalists in Kilifi town on Wednesday, the lawmaker said ending landlessness is the only reward Coast residents need from the government.
“The biggest problem in Kilifi and Coast in general is absentee landlords. They own large tracts of land but have never been seen by locals,” he said.
Mr Baya said the Coast has only attained political freedom “but we are still colonised on land matters”.
“It was my desire to see the constitutional amendments require absentee landlords to be removed from the register of titles and the land declared public,” Mr Baya said.
“The land should be divided and given to those who have settled in it. The tycoons propagating BBI own huge pieces of land. They rejected my idea, saying, it was going to create disputes.”
The lawmaker said it’s not right for a section of leaders and politicians to block the request “since most of the absentee landlords are Arabs in Oman”.
“The Coast must be emancipated from historical injustices using the law,” he said.
“The easiest way was through BBI. Had my idea been accepted, I would be the greatest crusader of the document and the constitutional amendments.”
He added that Arabs took advantage of local communities escaping slavery to grab and register the lands.
Sold as slaves
“The Giriama and other communities were forced out of their lands many years ago. They could not remain around for fear of being captured and sold as slaves by Arab traders,” he said.
“They went to seek refuge in the Nyika plateau.”
He said the locals returned after the end of the Arab rule and slave trade, only to find themselves homeless “since the Omanis had left but still possessed the land”.
“The Arabs left at the end of the slave trade, but returned to claim the land. To make matters worse, they still want to be paid.
Our people are suffering because the law only recognises those with title deeds,” Mr Baya said.
He added that the government is using millions of shillings to compensate absentee landlords in order to settle squatters, a problem that can be “easily” addressed through constitutional changes.
Mr Baya said landlessness has contributed to poverty in the Coast. He added that Kilifi is one of the counties that could reject the BBI report.