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Locals demand back land occupied by security forces in Mandera


Monday April 8, 2019
By MANASE OTSIALO


Part of the land occupied by security forces in the outskirts of Mandera town. Locals now want the land returned to them saying that the security teams were supposed to be there temporarily. PHOTO | MANASE OTSIALO | NATION MEDIA GROUP

Residents of Barwaqo Location in Mandera County are appealing to the ministries of Defence, Interior and that of Land to intervene and help them to reclaim their land currently occupied by security teams.

The more than 30 hectares of land is currently occupied by officers deployed to work on the Kenya-Somalia security wall project.

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“We gave out our plots voluntarily in 2014 but we have come to realise that the security teams have no plans to vacate and we now want our land back,” said Mr Osman Maalim Hussein.

SHORT STAY

He said they were convinced by a government official that the stay by the security officers would be a short one.

Mr Hussein claimed that the security teams comprising of military (KDF), Rapid Deployment Unit (RDU), the General Service Unit (GSU) and National Youth Service (NYS) personnel have been hostile to the community.

“These teams have set up camps on plots we did not agree on and no one can attempt to develop his land anywhere close to the camps,” lamented Mr Hussein.

He said digging huge bunkers by the military is degrading their land.

MOVE ELSEWHERE

“We appreciate the mandate of our security forces in protecting our borders from external aggression but we feel time is ripe for the temporary barracks to be moved somewhere else,” said Ms Amina Abdi Elmi.

According to the locals, allotment letters issued by the Mandera County government are enough proof of land ownership.

Warankara MCA Ahmed Gabnan Ali said the issue needs serious attention from the national government.

“This matter is beyond the county government and I request Dr Fred Matiang’i and Ms Farida Karoney to find a solution to the matter,” he said.

COMPENSATION

The county assembly has suggested that the affected families be compensated by the national government through the National Land Commission.

“In case the security installations remain, then the national government has to compensate those affected because they are unable to do anything on their land,” Mr Ali said.

At the county assembly, Mr Ali had sought to know what the county government is doing in resolving the stalemate.

“It is so unfair for the county government to keep mum when these people have continued to pay land rates for plots occupied by the security teams,” he said.

STRAIN RELATIONSHIP

He warned that the continued stay on the land by security teams will strain the relationship between the public and the armed forces.

“The county government’s ministry of Land participated in issuance of these plots to security forces but they pretend not to be bothered with the issues raised by the locals,” he said.

He accused the county government of tricking locals into giving their land to security forces.

County Land Executive Adan Hussein Hassan said there was no foul play when giving out the disputed land to security agencies.

“The national government approached us to assist by identifying land to settle NYS and their machinery as they worked on security wall. As a county government we approached locals and in writing they agreed to give land,” he said.

AGREEMENT

A letter from the county government to some of the land owners indicated the agreement was entered on April 14, 2014.

Mr Hassan said that the project has taken longer than expected but appealed for tolerance and calm as other avenues are approached.

“When NYS came, security forces followed, leading to the current situation but we are working round the clock to find an alternative including moving the forces or getting other plots for the affected people,” he said.

Mr Hassan said the Mandera County Assembly is fully aware of the issue, adding that the county executive is committed to finding a solution to it.

“This is a sensitive matter and those speaking about it need to understand that it touches on security matters of this town and county,” he said.



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