History was re-rewritten on Friday when President Uhuru Kenyatta finally issued title deeds to squatters in all counties in the Coast region as he had earlier promised. The 60,000 title deeds are said to be worth over 20 billion shillings. The question is, is it a move to rectify ancient and legitimate grievances over land, or one calculated to win over the Coast to support the Jubilee Alliance?
The occasion kicked off at Karisa Maitha Primary school in Kilifi town where President Kenyatta issued 19,000 title deeds before proceeding to Khadija grounds in Kisauni for a similar exercise.
ENABLING “WANANCHI TO UNLOCK THE COUNTRY’S WEALTH”
“If we choose to fully deal with poverty and create wealth in Kenya, we must resolve the land question to enable wananchi to unlock the country’s wealth,” he said, adding that the issuance of the land ownership documents was in the spirit of fulfilling a promise he made to Coast residents during the election campaign.
President Kenyatta, who was accompanied by Deputy President William Ruto and the Cabinet Secretary in charge of the lands docket, Mrs Charity Ngilu, warned the beneficiaries o f the title deeds against selling the lands but to instead use it to better their lives by putting the ownership documents into good use e.g., use the title deed as collateral to get loans and also put the land into farming.
“This is over 20 billion shillings that can change your life and that of the province if put into good use”, said the President.
NOT POLITICS AS USUAL?
Deputy President Ruto for his part echoed Kenyatta’s sentiments by emphasizing that the issuance of the title deeds to coast residents, the majority of whom are squatters in their own land thanks to past political injustices, was not politics as usual but a fulfillment of pre-election pledges by the Jubilee government.
“Our government is ready to work with all leaders regardless of political parties, race or tribal lines”, Ruto said.
LAND – THE THORNY ISSUE
Land, being an economic and socially important issue, has remained a thorny subject in Kenya for years and as been the prime source of both socio-economic and political conflicts especially in the Coast and Rift Valley provinces.
The Kenyatta family has been at the centre of land wrangles considering that it is believed that they own about a million or two acres of prime land across the country. The majority of coastal residents have lived as squatters in their own land even after the country attained independence and that has been a key influential factor in their political affiliations.
LAND – A POLITICAL ISSUE
The region has been a stronghold for CORD leader Raila Odinga who has always been vocal about implementing land policies that will correct the inequalities surrounding landownership in the country. This was evident at the March 4th elections where the region voted overwhelmingly for CORD and Raila.
The Jubilee’s government gesture as been viewed as a project to woe and win the region and questions are being raised as to whether all the necessary procedure s and criteria have been followed by the government to ensure that the title deeds are given to the lawful owners.
3 MILLION TITLE DEEDS TO BE DISTRIBUTED ACROSS KENYA IN FIVE YEARS
President Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto maintain that they are just fulfilling one of their many election promises and have announced that they will distribute three million title deeds across the country over the next five years.
The legitimate re-allocation of land it might be, and it does flow on from the election held earlier this year but it is surely also a move that looks to the next election by cutting into one of ODM’s previous strongholds, says the Kenya Forum. Expect similar developments in Western region and Kisii.