Top Kanu henchmen who served in former President Daniel Arap Moi’s government are among individuals on the spot over land grabbing in Kisumu, as the county government embarks on reclaiming the land in question for development projects.
The Kisumu County Government has written to the National Land Commission (NLC) seeking to repossess the grabbed parcels of land, institutional houses, pathways, markets and industrial parks.
A letter written by Governor Anyang’ Nyong’o lists 120 individuals implicated in the grabbing of the properties, delaying plans for implementation of development projects in the lakeside city, including the ambitious Social Economic Zone (SEZ) project.
The action was taken as the county strives to change the face of the town through various projects, while grappling with scarcity of land.
Prof Nyong’o’s headache now comes from land grabbers, land owners and litigations pitting the county and national governments against various parties, resulting in stalling of major development projects in Kisumu.
The massive land grabbing dates back to President Moi’s era, where most of the parcels in question were dished out to loyalists and prominent companies, with the help of unscrupulous land officials and councillors who served in the County Council of Kisumu.
So rapacious were the grabbers that spaces that were marked for pathways, parking spaces, sewer lines, drainage, and development of ECDEs, health centres, playgrounds and affordable housing were fraudulently acquired and are now illegally occupied.
The Nation has learnt of 120 individuals and companies, including prominent people and land brokers who have grabbed land, institutional houses, pathways, markets and the industrial park in Kisumu.
Before court are 24 cases which involve the county government and various companies.
According to a report seen by the Nation, and compiled by the Kisumu City Management office, 105 hectares in Kibos, including land planned for the industrial area and market spaces, has been grabbed.
The fenced land now belongs to a former MP from the Rift Valley who served as a powerful minister in the Moi government and a former minister from Nyanza, who was also a bigwig in the Kanu era.
The land problems in the Kanyakwar, Mamboleo and Kibos, which also include Kolwa, Kajulu and Kasule as originally known, date back to 1967, when the government proposed to extend the Kisumu Municipality boundary to facilitate growth of the town.
Kenya Gazette Notice no. 3400 of 1976 under the Trust Land Act Cap 288 (now repealed) set apart the land for the extension of Kisumu Municipality in Kanyakwar, South Kajulu, Manyatta and Nyalenda Pandpieri sub locations of Kisumu District.
At that time, the land was unregistered Trust Land and all interested affected parties were advised to inspect the acquisition plans at the offices of the District Commissioner Kisumu and Department of Lands in Nairobi.
However, the grabbed Kibos land falls within Nyalunya and Kasule sub-locations, which were not part of the land affected as per the gazette notice.
Kolwa Development Association took the matter to court, but the case is yet to be concluded.
The people of Kolwa were evicted without proper procedure, and the land allocated to 13 different individuals by a former commissioner of lands, and the Lake Basin Development Authority was among the beneficiaries.
Another area acquired through the same Gazette notice was the Mamboleo plots in South Kajulu, which were further subdivided and allocated to 286 individuals.
The area covers Mamboleo market, bordering the showground and ending on the railway line.
Other politicians who are named as having grabbed land in Kisumu are a former Cabinet minister and a former MP who is said to be owning land that was supposed to be a public park. A former woman MP is also among those listed to have illegally acquired an institutional house.
Some of the grabbed plots, whose title deeds were issued by a former land commissioner, are owned by a flour milling company.
Other entities accused of acquiring land illegally are a hotel and a block of flats, which sit on land meant for a playing ground.
The report also indicates that the offices currently occupied by the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC), as well as a plot owned by the Kisumu Water and Sanitation Company, were illegally acquired.
Some of the more than 25 markets whose land has been grabbed are Obunga Papa Mbuta, Nyawita, Kasarani, Wholesale, Ojino Okew, Nyamlori, Kondele Open air, Kosawo, Flamingo, Kilo, Manyatta Peace, Ojolla, Kisian Ochaya, Kiboswa, Dago, Kombedo, Riat, Otonglo, Gita, Chiga, Ongwano, Nyamasaria, Kowino, Koyango, and Angola.
Prof Nyong’o has petitioned the NLC and the Ministry of Lands to look into the matter.
“An advisory should be sent out to the Land Commission and the Ministry of lands and Physical Planning to revoke all the illegally and fraudulently acquired leases and titles of the 120 leases,” read the report.
From late last year, Kisumu City Manager Abala Wanga has spearheaded the process of reclaiming grabbed land, which involves issuance of notices to vacate and marking structures for demolition.
In the past two weeks, the city management team and the county government have been holding a series of meetings with NLC officials to come up with a list of the properties in question.
The county government has extended an olive branch to initiate dialogue with individuals who have developed properties on the illegally acquired public land.
This is being explored in one of the cases involving a supermarket, which sits on a parcel that was supposed to be a public park. Negotiations on restrictions are ongoing.
The problem is compounded by the fact that most land owners still owe the county government millions of shillings in rates.
In one case, a petroleum dealer transferred land to another company, which owes the county government of Kisumu land rates of up to Sh114.8 million.
The same petroleum dealer owns a parcel that sits on government reserved lands.