What you need to know:
- Jane Mukomugaa's troubles started 10 years ago, exactly eight years after she lost her sight following some health complications, and 17 years after the death of her husband.
- She says some local administrators colluded with defunct county council officials to defraud her of her land and illegally allocated it to other people.
Jane Mukomugaa, a mother of eight from Kiwanjani in Isiolo County, is a troubled woman.
A two-room iron sheet house welcomes us to her home. This is where the blind mother of eight lives with her lastborn son.
An old mattress, utensils and water jerricans spread on the dusty floor, with few clothes hanging on nails in one of the rooms resting on the 50 by 100 plot, offers a glimpse of the 59-year-old’s life.
“This is where I sleep,” she says, pointing to the mattress before her son helps her out of the house.
Her troubles started 10 years ago, exactly eight years after she lost her sight following some health complications, and 17 years after the death of her husband. Together with him, they had acquired a five-acre parcel of land in 1982.
The land is now occupied by unknown people, reportedly brought in after several structures including rental houses, were brought down using excavators and others torched.
“The land was grabbed eight years after I lost my sight in 2004. All these people you see here fraudulently acquired the land from me. I wish they gave it to poor residents instead,” she reveals amid tears.
But who grabbed her land?
Ms Mukomugaa says some local administrators colluded with defunct county council officials to defraud her of the land and illegally allocated it to other people.
Lack of title deeds in the county makes it easy for unscrupulous individuals to conspire with rogue land officials to swindle poor residents.
Her efforts to seek assistance from Isiolo County offices and the local chief have fallen on deaf ears, dimming her hopes of ever reclaiming the land.
“I visited the offices not once, but severally. The officers at the gate never allowed me in and on a few occasions when I managed, I was told the matter would be looked into,” she says.
The difficult life at home, she says, forced her seven other children to leave in search of jobs, as they mostly used to sleep hungry.
The blind woman and her son now survive at the mercy of their neighbours and a group of residents who are victims of land grabbing in Wabera and Bulapesa wards.
Disappointed, Ms Mukomugaa eschewed court as she had no resources to sustain a legal battle.
“I would have gone to court but was afraid they would influence the ruling. I also had no resources to even hire a lawyer,” she tells nation.africa.
The woman says she lives in fear of being ejected from the remaining land and appeals to President Uhuru Kenyatta to intervene in the case.
“I am begging our President to help protect my land and reclaim the grabbed portion, and ensure those involved face full force of law for subjecting me to the suffering,” she appeals.
She has also asked well-wishers and concerned organisations to help her get a lawyer to represent her in court.
The woman, who previously farmed and harvested hundreds of bags of maize and other crops is now a beggar, but remains hopeful that she will get justice one day.
Meanwhile, other victims of land grabbing in Isiolo have asked Land Cabinet Secretary Farida Karoney, to suspend the expected titling process in the county until land disputes are permanently resolved.
The residents, whose acres of land lay idle due to pending court cases, say issuance of the land documents would sanctify land grabbing.
Led by John Longorisho, Paul Nkunja and Mary Njeri, the victims cite double allocation as among the issues that should be looked into and call for thorough investigation by independent bodies, to establish the legitimate owners of all disputed land.
“There is no way titles can be issued when a parcel of land is being claimed by several people. Let the county government and the Ministry of Land first solve the dispute cases to know the owners,” says Ms Njeri, who claims her seven-acre-land was grabbed in Chechelesi.
They accuse Governor Mohamed Kuti’s administration for what they say is failure to streamline the land sector and get rid of rogue officials at the land office.
Governor Kuti recently appealed to the National Land Commission to fast-track processing of 294 title deeds for Bulapesa Ward but the process is yet to start.
Lack of ownership documents hinder development of residential and commercial properties due to multiple legal battles, which have left the plots idle.
They, however, say they are not opposed to titling in areas with no disputes.
Mr Longorisho, who has been paying rates for his land since 2014, also appeals to President Uhuru Kenyatta to him recover his land being claimed by a group of people who allegedly want to construct a mosque.
“It is so sad that we cannot step into and develop our land,” he says.
Nation.africa is reliably informed that most of the unscrupulous individuals salivating for plots in the fast growing region, collude with land officials to get documents. They then sue the rightful owners, who lack resources and are left at the mercy of the courts.
In most cases, stay orders are issued barring the legitimate owners from developing their properties, subjecting them and their families to a lot of suffering. Investigations to establish rightful owners also take too long. A number of the victims have sunk into depression due to prolonged and expensive legal battles.