Basil Criticos awarded me 2,500 acres of his farm, DP William Ruto says

UDA William Ruto

Deputy President William Ruto.

Photo credit: Joseph Kanyi | Nation Media Group

Deputy President William Ruto has opened up on the controversy surrounding his 2,536-acre Mata Farm in Taita-Taveta County, saying he genuinely owns the land.

Speaking at Lumo Wildlife Sanctuary during a Kenya Kwanza economic forum, the DP said he acquired the land after he helped former Taveta MP Basil Criticos to offset a loan he owed the Agricultural Finance Corporation (AFC).

“I am also a Mata elder because I helped the former Taveta MP to settle his loan at AFC and he gave me a portion of land,” he said.

The farm, located in Mata ward, borders the vast Criticos ranch and Lake Jipe to the South, has been at the centre of controversy over its ownership.

DP Ruto grows maize and rears cattle at the farm and has previously been accused of diverting water meant for the residents forcing hundreds of households to go without the commodity. His manager, Arie Dempers, has also been accused of harassing neighbours and workers at the farm.

In 2019, Mr Dempers was arrested by police for storming into a local mosque armed with a rifle, disrupting morning prayers. And in 2020, the Taita-Taveta County government claimed that Dr Ruto diverted the main water pipeline that serves the location to his farm. It moved to the Taveta Law Courts seeking orders allowing its officials and police officers to access the farm.

However, yesterday the DP asked Taita-Taveta voters to support his presidential bid as he is a resident of the county by virtue of owning the land.

The twin issue of landlessness and historical land injustices has once again taken centre-stage in Coast politics ahead of the August 9 General Election.

Dr Ruto’s main political opponent, Azimio la Umoja One Kenya Coalition’s Raila Odinga, has dwelt on the land issue as he seeks a share of the region’s 1.9 million votes.

In a rally at Virungani in Kwale County, DP Ruto castigated President Uhuru Kenyatta and Mr Odinga for failing to address the land issues. He promised that his administration will roll out a comprehensive programme at the Coast to solve the problem of squatters.

“We know those in Azimio can solve landless issues and restore port operations. Why not do it now? They should stop using it as a campaign tool,” said Dr Ruto.

Kilifi Governor Amason Kingi accused Mr Odinga of doublespeak.

“The land issue is not about picking a Coast leader to be Cabinet Secretary for Lands, we have had a number of people from this area in the same docket but lack of goodwill and policies are the ones needed,” said Mr Kingi in a veiled attack on Mombasa Governor Hassab Joho who was last week named as the Lands Cabinet Secretary designate by Mr Odinga.

In the four- day tour of the Coast region, Dr Ruto is also expected to mend sharp political differences between his United Democratic Alliance and Mr Kingi’s Pamoja African Alliance (PAA) over zoning after the latter joined the Kenya Kwanza Alliance.

The Kenya Kwanza team will hold 11 rallies and five economic forums in Taita-Taveta, Kwale, Kilifi, Mombasa, Tana River and Lamu.

Yesterday, the DP reiterated that he will return operations to the port of Mombasa from Naivasha.

“We will change policies to ensure all port operations are back to Mombasa. We will not allow Mombasa to die because of individual interests,” he said.

Vested interests

He also said the Dongo Kundu special economic zone has been hijacked by individuals who have vested interests. He added that the Mzima Two water project that has failed to kick off since 2018 will take off within the first 100 days of his administration.

Kwale Governor Salim Mvurya accused the government of neglecting the economic needs of coastal residents.

Woman Rep Lydia Haika asked the DP to ensure that his government constructs the Mzima water project, the Taveta railway and roads in the county.

Former Governor John Mruttu said he will ensure that the DP gets enough votes in the county to win the August election.

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