24 April 2019

Kenya: Lamu's Boni Community Gets Title Deeds After 56 Years Wait

After 56 years of waiting, members of the Boni minority group who live in Lamu County have finally received title deeds for their land.

On Tuesday, the Lamu County government issued a total of 6,232 title deeds to residents of ten villages in the region, out of which 3,232 went to the Boni.

There was joy and celebrations at Mokowe shortly after the Boni received the land documents for the first time in history.

HUNTERS AND GATHERERS

They are a forest community who traditionally depend on hunting, gathering of wild fruits and harvesting honey.

Most of the Boni land is situated within Boni Forest where the government in 2015 launched a multi-agency security Operation Linda Boni meant to flush out Al-Shabaab militants believed to be hiding there.

The operation still continues to date.

Those interviewed by the Nation in Mokowe on Tuesday said they were happy that the county and national governments had finally recognised their right to own land after decades of waiting.

NEW DAWN

Mr Ali Gubo, a Boni elder from Bar'goni village in Lamu West could not hide his happiness after receiving his title deed.

Mr Gubo termed the move by the county government to recognise the marginalised community by issuing them with title deeds as a new dawn.

"This is the first time that we members of the Boni community are getting hold of a title deed. Some of us were just hearing of a title deed but we didn't actually know what it is. We thank both the county and national governments for their collaboration in ensuring we get the land documents. We are proud that now we have the right to own land after 56 years of independence," said Mr Gubo.

Mr Doza Diza, another Boni elder, said they will now confidently face land grabbers head on since they at least have supporting documents unlike before.

LAPSSET

A section of the Boni land borders the Sh2.5 trillion Lamu Port -South Sudan-Ethiopia Transport (Lapsset) Corridor project which is being set up in Kililana, Lamu West.

The has made the Boni land to be a major target by grabbers and tycoons who had already begun frustrating the community while armed with fake title deeds.

"For the past 56 years of independence, we have been living in fear of being evicted by moneyed tycoons and grabbers. As a community, we have been feeling powerless and unable to protect our ancestral lands since we didn't have title deeds. We can now face those land grabbers head on since we have the title deeds with us now," said Mr Diza.

JUSTICE AT LAST

Mrs Asli Madobe said justice has finally prevailed to the community which has been fighting for their right to own land for years.

Mrs Madobe said the title deeds will help the community in its transformation to modernity.

"We can now use these titles to get loans to educate our children so that the community can transform for the better. We're tired of the forest life," said Mrs Madobe.

Lamu Governor Fahim Twaha on locals to avoid selling off their land immediately they get the title deeds.

LAND SPECULATORS

Mr Twaha said the ongoing construction of the Lapsset project has particularly put considerable pressure on Lamu land ownership and use.

He added that speculators are acquiring land, some through illegal, coercive or irregular means at the expense of the locals.

He said the county government is targeting to issue at least 5,000 title deeds to squatters every year.

The governor also said there is a plan to have 20,000 squatters resettled in the next four years.

"We want to resettle as many squatters as possible and ensure they officially own those lands by giving them title deeds. It is through a title deed that you can protect your land. But we have a scenario where people sell off their lands immediately they get title deeds. Please avoid selling your lands. The Lapsset is coming and the value of land in Lamu continues to rise," said Mr Twaha.

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