Security was tight in Nairobi’s Kibera slums Saturday ahead of Sunday’s planned ceremony to issue title deeds to Nubians.
However, it was unclear whether President Uhuru Kenyatta would preside over the event organised by Lands Secretary Charity Ngilu at a venue adjacent to the District Commissioner’s office as earlier scheduled.
On Tuesday, a group of residents who claimed they had been left out staged violent protests in the Kibera slums.
Kibra MP Kenneth Okoth told the Sunday Nation that key stakeholders were not consulted about the function.
“This is clearly a political strategy by the Jubilee government because there cannot be a state function in Kibera without the area MP, the former Prime Minister, or Nairobi Governor Evans Kidero,” Mr Okoth (Cord), told the Sunday Nation.
Kibera is considered an ODM stronghold and was represented in the last Parliament by Mr Odinga but, over the years, the Nubians have offered him only lukewarm support.
Addressing their long-standing land grievances while ignoring sections of residents thought to be Mr Odinga’s supporters could open a new battlefront between Cord and Jubilee.
The Lands ministry hived off 288 acres out of the 700-acre Kibera slums in Makina, Lindi, Mashimoni and Silanga areas and is expected to issue the Nubian community with ownership documents.
The areas targeted include land between the Kibera Law Courts and the Nairobi Dam, and other communities living there have expressed fears that they may be evicted.
In a press statement sent to newsrooms, Mr Okoth accused Mrs Ngilu and the Jubilee administration of stoking unnecessary tension in the area.
“Kibera is a sensitive place that can easily explode into deadly violence if proper consultation is not done for a comprehensive plan on land and housing for all residents of the slum,” he said.
The legislator added that in the last two weeks, there has been a build-up of tension and misunderstanding among various communities that usually coexist peacefully.
Last week, Mrs Ngilu visited parts of the constituency, triggering demonstrations by residents opposed to the government plan.
Mr Ochieng Jera, the chairman of the umbrella All Kibera Inhabitants Group, which brings together 30 groups, said Mrs Ngilu confirmed that the event will take place.
“We met the Lands Secretary on Friday and asked her to stop the exercise because it may cause chaos but we did not agree. We were supposed to meet again on Saturday (yesterday) but she is not picking up her phone,” said Mr Jera.
We could not reach Mrs Ngilu for comment despite sending her text messages and calling her cellphone line several times.
But a State House aide, who did not want to be named because he is not the official spokesman, defended the issuing of the land documents: “No one has disputed that Kibera is the home of Nubians. There is nothing wrong if they get 288 acres. The Jubilee manifesto promised to deal with the Nubian question and this is a community title deed. The Constitution allows this.”
The Chairman of the Nubian Council, Mr Abdul Issa Faraj, has maintained that no one will be evicted.
“Any person who is a Kenyan has a right to live in any part of Kenya, including Kibera, so we must coexist peacefully because we are united in diversity,” said Mr Faraj.
Earlier in the week, youth barricaded roads, stoned vehicles and engaged the police in running battles for close to three hours after Mrs Ngilu held a meeting at Muchanganyiko Hall, along Karanja Road with leaders of the Nubian community ahead of the reported President’s visit.
Mrs Ngilu was forced to cut short her trip after she encountered a group carrying placards and chanting anti-government slogans as she was touring the slum after the meeting. They demanded that everyone living in the slums must be given a title deed.
In February, during the launch of the Jubilee manifesto, Mr Kenyatta promised to grant title deeds to residents of Kibera.
“The rough estimate of Kibera land is worth over Sh60 billion – people of Kibera are literally walking over Sh60 billion which they own – yet they have been denied by their politicians the chance of unlocking that wealth because they have been denied the title to their land. My government will be committed to giving them the title to that land,” said the then presidential candidate.
The Nubians claim that all the land in Kibera is rightfully theirs after they were resettled there by the colonial government being a reward for fighting alongside them in World War II as part of the Kings African Rifles.
Mr Faraj argues that the land they are supposed to get is 4, 197 acres. He, however, said they have no objection to the community getting 288 acres.
“The land was surveyed in 1917 and gazetted in 1932 when 4,197.9 acres of land was formally given to the Nubian soldiers we are descendants of,” said Mr Faraj.
After independence, the government degazetted the land and refused to recognise the Nubians as Kenyans. Over time, the area grew into a slum and attracted thousands of people.
“It is not clear what plan the government has for resettlement or compensation of non-Nubian structure owners, tenants, and about 100 other individuals and organisations who over the years obtained genuine title deeds within the area,” said Mr Okoth.-nation.co.ke