President Uhuru Kenyatta issues Kihiu Mwiri titles, says no more land-buying companies
President Uhuru Kenyatta yesterday ended a bloody chapter in one of Kenya’s oldest land-buying companies when he issued 43 title deeds to shareholders of Kihiu Mwiri Land Buying Company. The Head of State also banned the registration of any new land-buying companies. The announcement is likely to bring relief to land owners in Central, Rift Valley and parts of Nairobi who have been preyed on by greedy directors for decades. Following the new directive, all land-buying companies will have to register with the Ministry of Lands.
At the same time, new regulations will be formulated by the Government to regulate the operations of land-buying companies. The President at the same time declared that directors of land-buying companies who have caused their members untold suffering will be severely punished within the confines of the law. Tears of joy rolled freely down the cheeks of Kihiu Mwiri residents as President Uhuru Kenyatta handed out 43 title deeds to the rightful owners of the land, some of whom had waited close to five decades for the precious documents.
The President also froze registration of land-buying companies until new regulations are put in place following persistent wrangles in the firms. So far, there are 3,411 title deeds which are ready for collection at the Murang’a Lands Registry by the beneficiaries of the controversial company that has seen brutal killings of 11 directors. President Kenyatta said all land-buying companies would have to register afresh with the Ministry of Lands before transacting business with the public. “Those who started these land-buying companies had good intentions but due to greed, lives have been lost as residents continue to lose millions of their hard earned cash,” President Kenyatta said.
The President said a few greedy people colluded with administrators to swindle people out of their land money, triggering the wave of killings He said no more land-buying companies would be registered until the ministry prepared policy and legislation to regulate the companies and the businesses involved in buying land.
“We want all the directors of land-buying companies to be identified and their contacts provided to ensure in future that if issues arise, they can be traced and held accountable for their actions,” he said. The President promised that the culprits behind the killing of members of the troubled Kihiu Mwiri land-buying company would face justice. “The fact that we have issued titles does not mean that those who killed and caused you suffering will get away scot-free. They will be pursued and prosecuted to the full extent of the law,” he said. Among the beneficiaries was Silah Muindi who was born in 1918 and who was one of the founding members of Kihiu Mwiri Land Buying Company. Irregular surveys Clutching his wooden walking stick, the 97-year-old was overwhelmed with joy as he walked to receive his title deed.
Tabitha Mutua could not hide her joy as she wiped away tears from her face after receiving the title deed, fondly remembering how she used to be part of the welcoming party for the late Jomo Kenyatta. “As a young girl in 1963 when I bought a piece of land with Sh5, I used to be among the welcoming dancers, for the late President Jomo Kenyatta,” said Mutua. Acting Lands Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i revealed that two contentious parcels of land, which errant directors of Kihiu Mwiri company had secretly sold to private companies, have been discovered to have been irregularly surveyed. “Director of Survey Cesare Mbaria had cancelled the survey of the lands because we have confirmed that the entire transaction was dubious,” Matiang’i said. He said the title deeds will be issued to individuals and public institutions that include schools and health facilities. Local leaders called on the Government to intervene and end wrangles in other land-buying companies namely: Nanga, Greystone, Mugumoini and Kakuzi squatters.
The leaders included Murang’a Governor Mwangi wa Iria, Senator Kembi Gitura and MP Wanjiru Chege, and MPs Kamande Mwangi (Maragua), Alice Wahome (Kandara), Clement Wambugu (Mathioya) and Humprey Njuguna (Gatanga). The land company was formed in 1965 and has been plagued by bloody feuds, violent assassinations and kidnappings that caused the death of 10 directors and mysterious disappearances of at least five people. The most recent incident is the disappearance of the director of the company Peter Kariuki, whose vehicle was found burnt in Tigoni, Kiambu, and has yet to be traced. For the last two decades, the giant land-buying firm has been embroiled in a bitter leadership wrangle pitting two rival groups, with each seeking to control the firm’s vast piece of land and assets running into billions of shillings. Shareholders were required to contribute Sh1, 200 with one share going for Sh20, which saw them allocated 60 shares for a quarter an acre. The price of the land has, however, skyrocketed to between Sh1 million and Sh1.2 million for a quarter an acre due to its proximity to Thika town. Another source of conflict is sub-division of land among shareholders’ family members.