Who Owes Matopeni Settlement an Explanation?

by James Tayler


matopeni, Kenya

**Cross posted from the Muungano Support Trust Bulletin**

Matopeni is a settlement in  Muungano wa Wanavijiji’s Mombasa North Network. Currently the community is undertaking daily savings with the aim of securing land tenure and acquiring the piece of land that they are currently occupying. The settlement has been divided into two clusters (Matopeni A and B) for the purpose of collecting accurate and detailed profile and enumeration data. The settlement sits on government land managed by the Municipal Council of Mombasa.  However, according to the data collected, Cluster A has been transferred to a number of individuals (tycoons) who are planning to build a City Mall depsite residents application to have the land allocated to them. Unfortunately the community has not been allowed to respond or have input in this decision despite the council having a service charter that demands that any written correspondence should be acted upon within seven days.

Astonishingly cluster B has also been transferred to an individual in the name of protecting the land from grabbers. If this is the case, why was the land transfered to a private individual and not  the council or a registered government entity?  Many questions are still left unanswered even amongst the council’s staff; why is it that the green card of this parcel of land is missing ? Or perhaps is the card kept in an important drawer somewhere in the building?

To get things moving in situations like this requires community support. The community needs to speak with one voice – a factor that is still missing in the settlement. Instead community members are betraying and informing on one another. Key leaders have been compromised and sell community strategies to land grabbers who in turn link their controversially allocated portions of land to the main road further undermining and marginalising neighbouring families. These families risk either forceful eviction without compensation or peaceful eviction and peanuts for compensation. Unfortunately, because of fear, bitter community members felt they could not challenge the sale. Some claim they do not have a say over an individual selling their property while others claim they fear black magic.

matopeni, Kenya

To further exacerbate the situation someone within the community is passing on information from meetings and discussions about land to land grabbers. As an attempt to access information, the grabber is currently attempting to join the saving scheme that is advocating for the legalization of the said piece of land with the aim of being allocated the parcel.

For residents to enjoy secure land tenure, good settlement leadership is mandatory. Resident’s need a leadership to steer the process and community solidarity to back up those who are involved. They also need some level of political goodwill which is currently not the case. Political leaders are working towards evicting some people in order to get a portion of land while others collude with  “grabbers” to ensure they can access land.

MUUNGANO WA WANAVIJIJI has built a community resource and learning centre in the area that supports 105 learners. If the leaders who are expected to work towards securing the future of these learners (through negotiating land and tenure)  are the same people who are selling the land on which the centre is located it is clear that they are doing a grave disservice to not only their current community but to future generations.