What President Uhuru Kenyatta needs to do to reclaim Coast region
President Uhuru Kenyatta faces a daunting task to appease Coast residents following calls for secession by a section of leaders, amid a growing Islamist insurgency in Lamu and the thorny land question.
Thousands of squatters are also begging for government’s attention besides claims of marginalisation. Political analysts say these are some of the issues that denied Kenyatta votes in Coast in the last elections.
“The President will have to stop these evictions. He must put in place a land reform strategy that will guide the settlement of squatters even after he has left office,” said Kenya Land Alliance Coast Chapter Chairman Nagib Shamsan.
In the last two weeks, fresh evictions have rocked Mombasa and Kilifi counties with hundreds of squatters left in the cold. For instance, 527 families (1,500 squatters) were evicted from a 132-acre piece of land in Lamkani, Kisauni, allegedly owned by a private developer.
Njeri Njenga Kagiri claims to have the title deed of the land she inherited from her late husband Jeremiah Nyaga in 1979 but the squatters maintain that this is their ancestral land.
In the run up to the General Election, the National Land Commission (NLC) and top government officials stopped eviction in the region. NLC promised to investigate the disputes between the squatters and the private developers to reach an amicable solution.
Jubilee administration boasts of issuing up to 300,000 title deeds at the Coast region, but Nagib Shamsan of the Kenya Land Alliance (KLA) says this has not achieved much.
During his last trip to the Coast, the President said the tittle deeds issued at the Coast were part of the more than 3.5 million titles deeds that the Jubilee Government issued across the country.
But Kilifi Governor Amason Kingi says that the solution to the land problem at the Coast is the implementation of the Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission (TJRC) report.
However, Kenyatta’s ally, former assistant minister Anania Mwaboza has supported calls to ignore the TJRC report, saying that implementing it could spark chaos and tribal animosity, a claim first advanced by DP William Ruto.
Critics believe the silence over the report is an disingenuous scheme to conceal Kanu era land grabs that benefited elites.
In the last four elections the opposition led by Raila Odinga has presented itself as the proponents against land grabbing and depicted Jubilee as reluctant to address the historical injustices.
Analysts say President Kenyatta would also seek to cement his legacy at the Coast by reviving some of the industries and the cash crops whose fortune have dwindled.
Last year, a task force set up by the State to probe cashew nut and coconut farming at the Coast said Sh2 billion is required to revive the sectors.
The task force chaired by Jonathan Sulubu said the farmers had been neglected for decades a move that condemned them to poverty even as tourism and fishing sectors ail.
Poor crop husbandry
Kilifi Senator Stewart Madzayo claims Jubilee deliberately ignored the cashew nut and coconut farming in the region and no plans were put in place to boost production.
“Jubilee wrote off debts of coffee and tea farmers in other parts of the country. Ask yourself what did Jubilee do for cashew nut and coconut sector in the last four years,” he said.
According to Githende Gachanja, managing partner at Institution Development and Management (IDM) Services, cashew nut production has continued to decline from about 80,000 metric tons produced in the early eighties to less than 10,000 metric tons.
“The decline is due to poor crop husbandry and especially failure to control powdery mildew disease. But also farmers lost interest in the crop because of poor prices,” he said.
On coconut, Mr Gachanja says the industry supports more than 150,000 households in Mombasa, Kwale, Kilifi and Lamu the counties but the sector’s fortunes are dwindling.
Last year, the President noted that the coconut sector has the potential to contribute up to Sh25 billion annually to the economy and admitted that little has been realised.
“It should dismay us even more when we remember that a take-off in coconut production would sharply reduce the importation of crude edible oils and fats,” said Uhuru.
He added that that the commercialisation of coconut and coconut products was imperative and challenged the Agriculture Ministry to come up with policies to unlock the potential in the industry