Yesterday the High Court issued orders temporarily halting the demolition of homes in Syokimau. The demolitions that began on Sunday target roughly 200 homes built on the land owned by Kenya Airports Authority.
Ownership of the 1000 plus acres of land in Syokimau is disputed. In parliament MPs Wavinya Ndeti (Kathiani) and Ferdinand Waititu (Embakasi) tabled ownership title documents belonging to the home owners issued by the Ministry of Lands, and rate payments made by said owners to Mavuko Municipal Council.
The Minister for Lands, James Orengo, has disputed the legality of the title documents issued from his Ministry saying the ownership documents were obtained fraudulently and are therefore not valid. The Minister for Lands has stated that in, “many areas especially in Nairobi there have been cases where MPs have used their supporters to invade public land and which they have subdivided and sold to the public. The group purporting to own the land has no title. Their papers of ownership are pure fraud.”
The Syokimau demolitions are a complex story with many actors; the buyers/homeowners, the property agents, the sellers of the land, the Ministry of Lands, the Ministry of Transport, Kenya Airports Authority, Nairobi City Council, Mavuko Municipal Council, banks/lenders, and Members of the Parliament and there is no doubt each of the actors can be apportioned some of the blame.
The Syokimau demolitions are not the first of their kind, there have been several instances of demolition of both domestic and commercial properties under very similar circumstances to those in the Syokimau dispute. These demolitions raise several question regarding:
- The policies and regulations that govern land allocation and subdivision, sale of land, land transfers and building approval.
- The responsibility and accountability of actors both public and private (the Ministry of Lands, the city and municipal councils, the buyers, sellers, agents, banks, lawyers) in land transactions.
- The veracity of the records on land kept by the Ministry of Lands, and City and Municipal Councils
- The process of eviction, surely there is a more humane process of evicting people from public land?
- Whether the MPs who participate in fraudulent land allocations be held to account?
There’s no easy answer to the questions brought up by the Syokimau demolitions but unless something is done to create concrete and coherent policies and processes with regard to land transactions we can definitely expect to see more evictions.