THE Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission report of last year condemned the Mpeketoni land settlement scheme of the 1960s as “unprocedural”, “dubious”, “irregular” and the cause of perpetual tensions in the area.
The TJRC report, which was handed over to President Uhuru Kenyatta last year, also analysed conflicts in Lamu in the context of the Shifta (Kenya-Somali) conflict of the 1960s.
The commissioners also factored in historically-rooted threats to peace posed by the proposed construction of the new Lamu Port. It said the Jomo Kenyatta presidency (1964-1978) engaged in setting up dubious settlement schemes that on the surface appeared to help locals, but in the end turned out designed to help upcountry people.
TJRC reported that only about 15 to 20 per cent indigenous Coastals benefited, while the rest of the land was taken up by upcountry people. To make matters worse, the report said, some members of Coastal communities who received allotment letters had their land subsequently illegally taken away.
“In Lamu district, where a larger settlement programme was implemented, supported by aid from Germany, 10,000 members of the Kikuyu community were settled between 1969 and 1979, including ex-Mau Mau soldiers. The irregular move raised the population of the Kikuyu to 20 per cent in the district”, the report said.
TJRC found that locals had previously lost their land to Arabs, and the British and hoped to regain it at Independence, when upcountry people, especially Kikuyus and Kambas, checked in.
It said said the Kenyatta government enacted a land legislative framework that condemned the locals to being squatters at the mercy of the government.
“In Lamu, for example, all the land in what currently constitutes Lamu County was categorized as government land, while the local indigenous population was considered as ‘squatters’ on the land, yet it was their own,” the report noted.
Further, lack of titles exposed the Coastal communities to violent evictions by government functionaries, especially security forces, on the pretext of carrying out security operations. The report cited an undated incident in which Somali raiders crossed the border and killed a police officer in Kiunga.
“The GSU, in addition to torturing the local Bajuni communities, demolished their villages, including Rasini and Mtanga Wanda islands, causing them to flee. Upon return, community members found that their land had been taken over and registered in the names of upcountry people who, to date, claim to be owners of the land,” the TJRC commissioners said.
In neighbouring Kipini, Swahili and Giriama locals claimed they discovered that people from other, upcountry, communities, especially the Akamba and the Kikuyu, as well as soldiers who had descended on the area for unexplained reasons, had sub-divided their land and obtained title deeds.
TJRC said that there have been conflicts “between the communities in the area and either local communities or government security forces, every time the Shifta from Somalia cross the border into Kenya to either steal cattle or to perpetrate other kinds of raids”.
The report said that every time Kenyan security forces are sent to the area to respond to Shifta attacks, they turn against community members and torture them, destroy their crops, demolish their homes and forcibly evict them.
“As a result, community members have been forced out of twelve villages in the area, including Shakani, Shendeni and Vundeni,” the commissioners said, adding that, in other places, the locals were simply forcibly evicted to pave way for upcountry people.
The commissioners listed Kiunga, Kishakani, Funambai, Vibondeni, Ashwei and Materoni as some of the villages occupied by Bajuni people at Independence, but which were subsequently destroyed and taken over by upcountry people.
On the Lamu Port issue, the report said Coastal people the commission talked to claim the government knew all along (as early as 1965) that the port would be constructed. It says the people believe the reason why many upcountry people were settled on their land is to enable them to become beneficiaries of compensation schemes.
Apart from the report being tabled in Parliament, there has been no dialogue between the government and the opposition on its implementation.
Sunday’s attack has the capacity to exploit these historical issues, especially where the impression is created that only members of a specific community were targeted.