Residents of Manda Island protest over NLC decision to dispossess them of their land
Over 150 dwellers of Manda Island in Lamu County are up in arms over a recent National Land Commission (NLC) decision to transform the area which was adjudicated way back in 1995 into a settlement scheme.
The dwellers said that the decision by the National Land Commission (NLC) to make Manda Island a settlement scheme where they have lived as squatters for 52 years awaiting a promise by the government to regularize their tenure has been abused by the Commission officers to allocate their pieces of land to non-residents and people who don’t even know where Manda Island is.
Led by Mzee Athman Shee, William Njuguna, Athman Alausi, William Kahindi and Jane Mwau, the dwellers said the decision by the NLC was dispossessing them of their land parcels in favour of people who have never lived in the area.
The elders who were speaking to KNA in Lamu Island said Manda Island, where they have eight acres each which were given to all the 150 dwellers by a former Lamu District Commissioner(DC) Mr Keah Mandago 23 years ago in 1995, through an adjudication process carried out by the Ministry of Lands, has been allocated to total strangers and denied them their tenure which has the potential of pushing them out of their parcels.
Speaking on behalf the elders, Mzee Athman Shee, William Njuguna and Ms Jane Mwau said they have schools, water pans and other amenities which are used by their children and urged the NLC to re-examine their decision to convert the 1,696.6 hectare village into a settlement scheme.
“We have been waiting for the government to regularize our tenure for 23 years as per an official letter signed by the then Lamu West District Commissioner, Mr Stephen Ikua, on behalf of the then District Development Committee (DDC) in June 2011, requesting the area District Land Adjudication Officer (DLASO) to expedite the issuance of allotment letters to the residents on the ground but now the NLC has dispossessed us of our parcels through this unilateral decision to turn the area into a settlement scheme,” said the elders .
The elders asserted that they were objecting to the issuance of allotment letters to new settlers by the NLC as this will push out old men and women who settled in the area in the early 1960s.
“We settled in Manda Island when the area did not have any water supply forcing us to ferry this precious commodity from Lamu Island using boats but we have build our water pans and build schools through harambee but we are perturbed by the NLC decision to push us out of our eight acre parcels and settle strangers,” said the distraught dwellers.
They accused the NLC of creating internally displaced people (IDPs) in Lamu County where people of diverse ethnicity and religious persuasions and origin have lived for hundreds of years without friction.
“The buck stops at the doorstep of the NLC and the County Commissioner’s office for creating internationally displaced persons in Manda Island in favour of ‘outsiders’ who have never been to Lamu county,” lamented the elders.
The villagers urged the NLC to rescind the decision to convert the island into a settlement scheme as this will lead to confrontation between them and the new land owners.
“We the 150 dwellers of Manda Island want justice from the NLC and other government agencies as their unilateral decision will displace innocent Kenyans whose crime was to wait for allotment letters for 23 years only to be confronted by this turn of events,” said the elders.
The elders also lamented that an activist from the area, a Mr Mohammed Avukane, whom they had tasked to file a case at the Malindi High Court against the NLC disappeared without trace two weeks ago.
“We are calling on the relevant government agency to tell us where Mr Avukane disappeared to since reports indicate that he was arrested in Malindi just before filing our case in the High Court against the NLC,” said Mzee Njuguna, on behalf of the other elders.
Efforts by KNA to contact the NLC officer in Lamu County a Mr Mutungi to react to the elders protest were futile as he referred us to the NLC Chairman, Dr Muhammad Swazuri, to comment on the matter which he described as ‘very sensitive’.
By Amenya Ochieng’.