I Will Revoke Fake Titles Without Fear Or Favour: Swazuri

| Caroline Mango

National Land Commission chair, Professor Mohammed Swazuri, says nothing stands in the way of his commission implementing the explosive Ndung’u Report on land without “fear or favour” against some of the most prominent and powerful personalities in the country.

The chairman insists that there will not be ‘piecemeal or selective’ solutions as it seeks to exercise its mandate under the new constitution. He asserts that all public officials or persons and professionals, whether serving in the current government or past regimes, who facilitated or participated in the illegal allocation of public land, will be investigated and prosecuted in accordance with land laws.

Alive to the ‘heat’ that is the Ndung’u Report because of the influential names it lists as being involved in illegal acquisition of public land, Prof. Swazuri says the National Land Commission (NLC)’s ammunition will be the law.

The 2004 report of the Commission of Inquiry into the Illegal Allocations of Public Land chaired by lawyer Paul Ndung’u, and popularly known as the “Ndung’u Report”, mentions a raft of former ministers, MPs, judges, civil servants and military officers as having acquired land illegally. It also alleges that the family of President Uhuru Kenyatta and former presidents Jomo Kenyatta, Daniel Moi and Mwai Kibaki illegally acquired chunks of prime land and public utilities along the Coastal strip.

The report recommends that the large majority of such awards be revoked, a recommendation that is now well covered in the mandate of the Swazuri commission, as envisaged in the new constitution.

Mohammed Swazuri

Mohamed Swazuri

When asked by Coast This Week whether the NLC would be bold enough to investigate President Uhuru and/or his family based on sections of the Ndung’u report which suggest that the President’s family owns over half the Coast region, Prof. Swazuri said:  “We are dealing with the law here. Everything is in black and white. This is no big deal. Former President (Moi) has surrendered land voluntarily in Kwale and the serving Vice President (Ruto) has lost land to a citizen of this country through a court of law. The law does not look at who Uhuru is or who Kibaki is, and that should demonstrate that this is not a witch hunting mission.”

The Ndung’u Report’s recommends a process of revocation and rectification of titles in the country, computerization of land records which should be made available to the public for inspection and the establishment of a Land Commission and revocation of the powers of the President and Commissioner of Lands to allocate land as some of the far reaching steps that have now been envisaged in the laws that govern land issues in the country.

Other powerful provisions within the new laws that govern the independent government commission, is for instance, the Land Act 2012 which empowers the state to ‘acquire any title or other interests in land for a public purpose subject to prompt payment of compensation’. The Act also stipulates that private land can be converted into public land through compulsory acquisition, reversion of leasehold interest to government after expiry, transfers or surrender.

Land owners at the Coast who include prominent Arab and Asian families including Swaleh Nguru, the Mazrui dynasty and Abdallah Baghoza are hopeful that the commission will be fair to all those involved and take proper action on those who continue to enjoy ‘ill gotten wealth from fake title deeds.

“The Commission must scrutinize afresh, all title deeds and clean the system that has given these people (grabbers) an easy time, always running along the corridors of justice, every time they are about to be unmasked,” says Munir Mazrui. “Authentication of title deeds will be a very important exercise which will also protect those who acquired land through the right legal processes like myself.”

Prominent Mombasa lawyer and political activist Abubakar Yusuf says the commission has the constitutional and legal framework to discharge its mandate. Yusuf however says the challenge lies on the individual ability by the commission to be bold enough to face the ‘land grabbers’ and take action without fear.

“Land grabbers, whether in this or past regimes, will not sit and fold their arms to wait for Swazuri’s commission or return land they grabbed from poor people,” he says. “The problem if you ask me has never been the law. The problems lie in the implementation of reports that are in public domain and which continue to gather dust in government shelves simply because the forces behind land grabbing have been able to maintain status quo.”

Prof. Swazuri says the commission appreciates the fact that its mandate will face major challenges like transfer of ownership of land but adds that they are empowered to seek correct information, a provision that will allow them trace back documents and refer to various sources.

But critics feel that the national government is clearly by design, interfering and undermining the commission’s purpose which was to work hand in hand with county governments. In response, Prof. Swazuri says that even though the commission is faced with the major issue of under-funding, there is no interference by the national government; notwithstanding the move by the Ministry of Lands to issue over 60,000 title deeds, and more recently, the summoning of all county registrars and their deputies in Nairobi to ‘take stock and facilitate transition’ of land titles.

“The commission was formed under the former President and so far, we feel that the Jubilee government is committed in solving the land issues not only at the Coast but the country as a whole. So far, we are clear and ready to undertake our mandate without fear or favor,” says Prof. Swazuri.


County Set For Population Explosion

Leaders in Kwale County have been urged to clear up misconceptions on family planning and to urge Kwale residents to plan their families so that development can be achieved.

“We have an opportunity to plan our future and our families. We have embarked on a journey to transforming this country. Transforming the population to be self dependent and people live in prosperous country,” said the County Commissioner, Evans Achoki.

Mr Achoki said that Kenya’s Vision 2030, envisage a middle income economy where people shall be able to access their necessities, however Achoki noted that for this to happen effective planning is mandatory.

Kwale’s population as at the 2009 Census was 649,931 persons and is projected to increase to 713,488, 783,261 and 833,527 persons in 2012, 2015 and 2017 respectively.

According to statistics from the National Council for Population Development (NCPD) 36 per cent of county’s residents are youth and 55 per cent are children.

“If (these youth and children) do not realize their dreams then we will have a big problem in our society.” Mr Achoki said adding that society has a role in reminding youth of their role in  development.

“Boys need to be taught that their role is not to impregnate girls and run away and girls needs to be taught how to safeguard themselves from getting early pregnancies.” said Karugu Ngatia, the NCPD Deputy Director Programmes and Coordinating.

Mr Ngatia, who was speaking at a sensitization workshop on the new national population and development policy, emphasised that family planning is not for the women but for the family.


Archbishop: Strikes Will Destroy This Nation

| Mohamed Seif

A senior clergyman is calling for the voice of reason to prevail in the teachers’ strike.

Anglican Archbishop Rev. Dr. Eliud Wabukala says teachers should be reasonable. PHOTO/Mohamed Seif

Anglican Archbishop Rev. Dr. Eliud Wabukala says teachers should be reasonable. PHOTO/Mohamed Seif

Speaking in Likoni on Tuesday, Anglican Archbishop Rev. Dr. Eliud Wabukala said that the agitation for higher salaries by parliamentarians, county reps, nurses and now teachers, are causing the country’s goals to be being sidelined.

“It is almost three years since we started the journey of the new constitution. There were numerous expectations from the constitution that may have made us not to take cognizance of the warnings about the storms that abound the journey,” the Archbishop said.

He said frequent disruptions to the country’s development could be an indication of misplaced priorities including the existence of constitutional gaps, lack of due diligence in ensuring proper planning and a negative societal attitude among others.

“My call is that we need to consult and solve our problems through negotiations because at the end of the day strikes will destroy this nation” he said. “I am persuaded that we will weather these storms if we  stick together and focus on our national goals and aspirations and remain ready to sacrifice for their realization.”

Garbage Dumpers Take a Verbal Thrashing

| John Maina

Unlicensed garbage collectors who use carts in Mombasa County are facing the heat
for the oceans of garbage that are threatening to swallow the entire city.

Experts in the industry and residents alike accuse them of dumping anywhere and everywhere after they have collected the garbage from their customers. Most of these garbage collectors use carts and polythene paper bags to collect garbage but instead of taking the trash to the dump-site or various designated collection points around the county, they continue to dump in restricted areas especially those that pose a hazard to the residents and are an eyesore for the city.
The acting city manager for Mombasa, Martin Achal, says garbage collection is a challenge for the county government because most people live in the central business district; generating more garbage than the authorities can handle, especially as the county garbage trucks are almost always in need of service.

Achal says of the sixteen trucks used in garbage collection, only eight are functioning. Having this addressed, and imposing heavy penalties on those dumping illegally, would alleviate the situation greatly, he says.

He said they have information that some people give bribes to the city askaris who man the areas that are not designated for dumping so they can allow illegal dumping. He says the county will take action on those they catch in the act.

However, Stella Abooka, a private garbage collector puts the blame squarely on the authorities and unregistered garbage collection outfits who she says only compound the problem by not following the law.

She suggests that the police should take action on them for risking the lives of locals.

“Some of these people give garbage collectors in general a bad name. The public should be only hire approved cleaning services and garbage collection firms,” she told CTW.

High cost

The business of garbage collection is an expensive affair since prices charged by the defunct Mombasa Municipal Council have doubled since last year. This in the long term raises the cost of operations for anyone who is involved with trash collection business in Mombasa County.

On the use of plastic bags for garbage collection services, Ms. Abooka says that her company uses the bags because they know that they are going to take the garbage to the right place at Mwakirunge dump-site where there are people who collect plastic bags for recycling purposes.

More Than 4000 litres Of Illicit Brew Impounded

| M’bwana Omar

As the government puts in measures to eliminate all illicit brews, liters of intoxicant were poured and equipment destroyed at Bangladesh Changamwe district of Mombasa County during a raid aimed at arresting the distillers.

Illicit brew

During the raid 100 liters of chang’aa, 4000 liters of kangara, 400 grams of bhang were recovered and 3 suspects arrested.

According to one of the distillers, Everlyn Nambuya, the brewers have been in the business for the past five years as their only means for sustenance.

Mrs Nambuya said since her husband died a while ago, she has engaged in the business and used the money to pay school fees for her children. She said the prohibitive license fees of opening a registered bar, and the high cost of renting stall as some of the reason why slum dwellers take the easy way out.

“Chang’aa and kangara are like our husbands, she said.

The haul that was poured down the drain is estimated to be worth at least Ksh. 40,000.

Speaking on behalf of the residents and others, Mrs. Nambuya urged the government to give them ample time to source for alternative business that was legitimate.

In response, the Assistant County Commissioner, Kennedy Gitonga Murungi said that the raids will continue until all perpetrators are brought to book

Murungi warned all those involved in the sale, transportation, storage, as well as usage of these products, that the government was watching them and that they would face the full force of the law.


Uhuru efficiency order causes jitters at KPA

| Ishaq Jumbe

New directives by President Uhuru Kenyatta that are meant to streamline efficiency at the Port of Mombasa is putting pressure on the top management of the Port to deliver within the shortest time possible.

portThe President has ordered that Kenya Revenue Authority’s (KRA’s) Customs Department be based at the Port and report directly to Mr. Gichiri Ndua, the Managing Director. This means that Mr. Ndua will drive the turn-around with no excuse that has been the norm in the past of frustration from other government agencies that take part in facilitation of faster cargo clearance.

The new directives come after a consultative meeting between the President and all Government agencies that are involved in cargo clearance at State House in Nairobi.

Sources confirmed to Coast This Week that the directives now put pressure on Mr. Ndua and that his job is already on the line should there be no turn-around in a month’s time. The spotlight is now on the MD whose contract was renewed by the former Transport Minister Amos Kimunya before the lapse of the last Government.

The new vigour by the Jubilee Government is underlined by a visit by Uhuru when he was still President-elect and those that worked with him at Treasury, when he was Minister, saying that he is keen on making Mombasa Port competitive.

“He has always been concerned why the Port was not efficient and he is determined to have it work soonest,” said a close aide to the President, who wished not to be named as he is not authorized to speak on behalf of the President.

The President is also believed to be ready to overhaul the Port management should they fail to implement the new directives.

At the same time, lobbying for the Chairman of the KPA Board of Directors is in high gear after the expected lapse of the current chairman, Mr. Shukri Barmadi’s tenure. He has served three terms and during his time he has spearheaded notable developments at the port including the ongoing construction of the second Container Terminal. It is not clear if he is interested in seeking the chairmanship again.

The new 24-hour operations directive also puts banks and clearing and forwarding companies on their toes with threats that should they be seen to be an impediment, their operating licenses would be withdrawn.

Meantime, in the raft of proposed changes, the Head of State also ordered the immediate digitization of the clearing process and the modernization of weighing of cargo. He further ordered the upgrading of Simba system and fast-tracking of the single window system that will automate the clearing process.

The President wants the Transshipment Bond abolished with immediate effect. He further said Clearing and Forwarding Service companies and transit sheds located inside the Port should be removed to ease congestion. Many local bigwigs have sheds and CFS’s within the Port.

“It is a nightmare directive by the President. It was unthinkable two months ago that the CFS’ and sheds which are owned by some of the richest and well connected individuals in Mombasa would be removed from the Port area,” said an employee of one of the CFS’.

President Kenyatta said preferential treatment will be given to goods that are pre-certified and issued with certificates of conformity from the port of origin as opposed to those which will not have been certified.

The Head of State further said that a KEBS laboratory in Mombasa should be in place by 2014 to avoid relying on the laboratory in Nairobi which causes delays.

To ease traffic congestion, President Kenyatta said the Government will prioritize the construction of a dual carriageway from Changamwe to Jomvu.

The President also ordered the formation of a special committee tasked with the responsibility of rejuvenating the railway transport system so as to accommodate more cargo, saying this will also reduce destruction of roads as well as road carnage.

He said weighbridges will also be modernized, adding that container goods weighed at Mariakani and with untampered seal will be allowed to travel to Malaba without further inspection at police roadblocks.

The President pointed out that roadblocks will be replaced with mobile traffic surveillance. In this regard, President Kenyatta urged the private sector to support the electronic vehicle tracking system to take effect without further delay.”

KPA Public Relations Manager Mr. Bernard Osero said the port is ready to handle the directive and believe they have the capacity to improve for the better.

“It is a positive move that is going to improve the effectiveness of the port and ease congestion in a big way. The president’s intervention is very timely. We at the port were able to implement the retired president’s Kibaki’s directive on 24 hour operations without a hitch and we are equally ready to implement what the president ordered,” he said in an interview.

He confirmed that meetings have been held to fast track the president’s edict and already the groundwork to accommodate the Commissioner of Customs and all the other players are being put in place.

“Kenya is very strategic and the port in particular is a government facility and therefore it is in order to have the Presidents involvement without the media reading mischief in instruction,” he said.

Mr. Wellington Kiverenge, the acting Kenya Transport Association (KTA) CEO said that he was positive that the move will ease congestion at the port. “We laud the president for stepping in to help the users of the port. With the banks and the clearing firms threatened with license revocation, the process should be easier now as opposed to what they were used to having in the past,” he said.

He said his members, with trucks estimated at 10,000 are looking forward to an effective 24 hour service.