The Star (Nairobi)

7 August 2012

Kenya: Banita Residents Call Orengo to End Bloody Land Dispute

More than 3000 residents of Banita Settlement Scheme in Rongai Constituency, Nakuru, have called on the Minister of Lands James Orengo to solve land allocation disputes in the area. While identifying it as the major cause of fights which have left many dead and others injured in the recent past, the residents urged Orengo to review the process used in allocating land parcels and realign it with their earlier agreement.

When the government bought the 14,000 hectares of sisal plantation from a white farmer in 1997, it was agreed that 60 per cent of the beneficiaries be from the settlement and 40 per cent outsiders. "The situation is different, we have got more than 60 per cent of outsiders occupying the better developed part of the land, while the earlier settlers were given swampy areas or hilltops," said Reverend Edward Amboka of Gospel Trumpet Church of God.

Amboka, who is a member of the Rongai District Peace Committee, said in order to broker peace amongst the communities living in the scheme, matters on land subdivision must be cleared before the country goes to the polls inext year. " We have the 42 tribes here because this place is cosmopolitan. But land is the only source of conflict here and the government must be clear whether it bought the land and where each of us belongs because there is one community which has occupied almost half of the land. We are divided by the railway line and they do not want us to cultivate the land. They pressure us to keep livestock on this other side," Amboka said.

He said the status quo in the settlement in which the residents are not allowed to develop their land has also fuelled the divisions. "The status quo imposed does not allow anyone to build a new house. You are only allowed to replace a collapsed one. And this is an issue because on one side people got developed pieces while the others did not," he said. He blamed the government for laxity in solving the problem. He challenged local leaders to act towards promoting cohesion amongst the people in the scheme. A 23-year-old man and three others were shot with arrows after the burial they were attending was stopped by armed men two weeks ago.

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