The Kisumu County government of has locked horns with jua kali artisans over the ownership of a 23-acre parcel of land.
While the county administration intends to put up a multi-million market complex, the jua kali artisans on the other hand are laying claim to eight acres within the same piece of land and allege that the county has encroached on it.
The county government says the land was donated to them by Kenya Railways to resettle traders who were displaced by the expansion of the Kisumu port.
But the jua kali traders claim they have a title deed for the land which they say was given to them through a presidential decree.
The differences erupted Wednesday when the Kisumu City Board moved to hand over the construction site of the proposed Uhuru Business Park Complex to the contractor.
"As we give the aggrieved traders time to resolve their concerns with Kenya Railways, we will start construction on the undisputed land in order to ensure that we do not lose more time," said the City Manager Doris Ombara.
She indicated that they have already received Sh350 million funding from the national government through the State Department for Urban Development under the Slum Upgrading Project.
"This will be part of the finances as we wait for an additional Sh700 million from the World Bank to modernise the market and have a capacity of 10,000 traders," she told Nation.
GROUND BREAKING CEREMONY
Mrs Ombara, while indicating that they have already started erecting a chain-link fence, said President Uhuru Kenyatta is expected to preside over the ground breaking ceremony of the market during the official launch of the rehabilitated Sh3 billion Kisumu port.
"We have a site office ready and heavy machinery are on the ground. We hope that the matter will be addressed amicably to allow us finish the project as scheduled," said Ms Ombara.
But Kisumu Center Jua Kali Artisans Association Treasurer David Odanga claimed the county and the national governments have not been engaging them, only to surprise them with what they termed "ambush" into their land.
He maintained that the 37,000 members will not be moving out, noting that they legally own and have a title for the land.
"We have been engaging the county government only to be surprised to see the design and map showing how they have encroached into our eight-acre piece of land.
"We hold the title deed and we already have our plan which will be implemented with the help of development partners. It is unfortunate that the two levels of government are not being transparent and have failed to conduct public participation," said Mr Odanga.
He indicated that they acquired the land following several years of policy formulation that culminated in the issuance of allotment letters in 1994 and a lease in the same year.
"The land we are currently occupying is legally ours and we have paid land rates and have land clearance from the ministry of land," said Mr Odanga.
Mr Odanga said they can only sit and engage the two levels of government on how to develop their proposal if it does not involve evicting them from the area and replacing them with other small businesses.