Nairobi Park gets bigger, Maasai get angry - Beaking Kenya News

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Sunday, 8 November 2020

Nairobi Park gets bigger, Maasai get angry


The state has hived off 2,000 acres in Mavoko and given it to the Nairobi National Park.

The land is adjacent to the national park, enlarging it from 29,000 acres to 31,000 acres.

The land will provide a wildlife corridor on the southern side of the park, connecting NNP, Swara and International Livestock Research Institute conservancies in Machakos and beyond.

It will improve conservation and reduce human-wildlife conflict in settlements adjacent to the park.

About 2,000 squatters will be affected.

The decision has angered the leaders of the Empakasi Oolera Trust that has been fighting for return of what they call their ancestral land.

The land was hived off after several government task forces were appointed to determine the ownership of the disputed 10,000 acres.

The land is known as the Sheep and Goats' land on the border of the Kajiado Kaputiei Maasai community and Machakos Kamba. It was the Sheep and Goat Research Facility.

The last task force was formed by Lands CS Farida Karoney and gazetted under  Notice No 12623 on August 28 last year.

On September 3, the title deed was handed over by President Uhuru Kenyatta to the Ministry of Wildlife and Tourism. It will be under KWS protection.

The Empakasi Oolera Trust working committee is led by chairman James Turere, Wilson Kisemei, Samuel Oiputa (treasurer) and members Jeremiah Kaloi, James Kisemei, Joseph Juma, Parmisa Semei and Wilson Kirayian.

Turere said on Friday: “We have been duped by the government in this. We have all along been thinking that all is well, but the action taken by President Kenyatta on November 3 is shocking.”

Turere said the community land was handed out to the colonial government in the mid-1930s for livestock research-related services. He said that after the land was abandoned, it should revert to the community.

The trust was meeting on Friday as the community to discuss the issue.

"We feel an injustice has been visited on the community that has been struggling for decades to recover the land the colonialists robbed us of,” Turere said.

While handing over the title, President Kenyatta said, “For the first time since the Nairobi National Park was gazetted, the government is allocating more land to conserve it for posterity."

“Giving the title deed to Nairobi National Park enables the park to secure the much-needed space for wildlife and is a clear testimony of Kenya’s commitment to wildlife conservation. We must secure more space for wildlife habitat for posterity,” the President said.

The expansion comes at a time when environmental activists have decried increased human activity, construction and development in the park, including the construction of part of the standard gauge railway.

The park is the world's only national park located in a metropolitan area.

The Ministry of Tourism and Wildlife said the park also faced threats due to adjacent human settlements.

“Due to reduced space for wildlife in the park, several species occasionally move out of the park to the adjacent communities in search of forage and water. In the process, it leads to human-wildlife conflicts outside the park.

Lions have wandered out of the park.

“The Sheep and Goat Research Facility will therefore provide additional habitat for wildlife resulting in reduced conflicts between wildlife and people,” the ministry statement read.

“I want to make it clear to all the members that this farm belongs to Kaputiei community members and not a few individuals who have been going around cheating others that the farm is theirs,” Turere on March 18, 2019.

The land is registered under Sheep and Goats Multiplication (L.R. 10029/2). 

The land was originally within the Maasai Reserve as proclaimed in the Native Trust Ordinance, Kenya Gazette No 394 of December 3, 1926.

Turere said M/S Liebig (K) Ltd was granted a 10-year leasehold starting from December 18, 1936. 

In 1948, the company moved to Tanganyika and the land was transferred to the Kenya Meat Commission.

Maa leaders claimed KMC later leased the land from March 1, 1952, for use as livestock holding ground until 1967. In 1970 it was handed to the Commissioner of Lands to decide  its use.

The commissioner of lands, it was said, later gave land to the Livestock Marketing Division of the the Ministry of Agriculture. In 1977 the division handed it over to the Sheep and Goats Project for breeding.

While addressing journalists at the farm near Kitengela, Turere said in 1981, after consultations, the Empakasi Community was allocated 6,000 acres while the sheep and goat project was allocated 2,912 acres for the public good.

The community, he said, agreed to this arrangement with the condition that if the project fails, the land must revert to the community,

The project failed in the late 1980s and the government started dishing out the same land to politicians and other connected land grabbers.

The community has remained hostile and no grabber has ever been able to access the land, the community leaders claim.

They said some state agents have been colluding with cartels to grab the disputed 'Sheep and Goat' land that belonged to their ancestors but was later forcibly taken during President Daniel Moi’s regime.

“This is the third task force we are appearing before. The first was the one initiated by George Saitoti. We later met a parliamentary group before this task force,” Sheep and Goat chairman  Turere said on March 18, 2019.

He spoke when they appeared before a task force on the current state of ownership of land in Mavoko and invasion by squatters in Athi River county.

The team headed by Paul Mwangi as chairman. It included Christopher Maina (ICT ministry), Joseph Njeru (Trade ministry), Dickson Magotsi (Interior), David Kiai (Agriculture and Irrigation), Ali Nuno (National Police Service), Everlyne Mutie (Machakos government).

It also included  Christine Kanini (Office of the Attorney General), Joint Secretaries Purity Mwangi (Assistant Director, Lands Adjudication and Settlement) and David Nyandoro (Principal Land Registrar).

Turere said the Maasais have been oppressed as they are the minority in Mavoko.

He said the only hope of more than 2,000 squatters is the 2,912 acres of the disputed land they already occupy.

Turere said both the National Land Commission and the Parliamentary Committee on Lands had recommended that the land be reverted to residents. The first task force’s report stated otherwise.

“The first task force reported that the land belongs to the government. We have never seen the commissioners since then. We  kindly request this commission to revert the land to us,” he said

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