News / Africa

Massive Evictions Breed Anger, Resentment Along Kenyan Coast

Felix Karisa hold up the notice ordering the eviction of his entire village outside Mombasa, Kenya, November 18, 2012. (H. Heuler/VOA)
Felix Karisa hold up the notice ordering the eviction of his entire village outside Mombasa, Kenya, November 18, 2012. (H. Heuler/VOA)
The waves of the Indian Ocean softly lap the idyllic coastline of Kilifi, just north of Mombasa. Edged in golden sand and fringed by palm trees, this is prime Kenyan real estate, ripe for hotels and luxurious homes.

But, it is also the ancestral land of Kenya’s coastal people, most of whom are poor. As more and more of this land finds its way into the hands of the wealthy, hundreds of thousands of natives are being evicted.

Goodluck Washe, a community activist working with the local people, points to a vast stretch of empty land where a town once stood.

“There used to be a big town here called Jeuri. Now Jeuri is no longer there, because all of those people were evicted from that place and they went to Kikambala. All the villages were destroyed and it became somebody’s land,” he said.

The nearby village of Maweni is about to suffer the same fate.

“There are almost 500 families in this village," lamented Felix Karisa, 35,  who has lived there his whole life."This village has been here for long.”

In October, Maweni was served with an eviction notice by a Somali woman who held the title deed. Like most coastal natives, the villagers never had deeds to the land they grew up on. Now, Karisa says he is terrified of losing the house he built for his family.

“We live in a panic, we fear," he confided. "So you see, if today this house is brought down, then I feel like it’s better if someone kills me. Because I’ll have nowhere to take my kids.”

It is a common story. No one knows exactly how many people have been evicted, so far, but in November, a local newspaper reported that 120,000 villagers had been declared squatters, and were being thrown off land south of Mombasa.

Boniface Mwingo, a local government official, explains that, when land was divided up by the Kenyan government in the 1980s, those in power claimed huge chunks of it.  Meanwhile, local people were allotted tiny plots or nothing at all.

Now, as these title deeds begin to surface, many coastal Kenyans are finding they have no right to the land they live on. Mwingo says this situation has created bitterness in the region.

“People are totally unhappy, because they are not free.  They cannot make any developments because they don’t have documents," said Mwingo. "The people who have the documents are the big men who don’t have anything to show on the ground.”

Some people are trying to fight their evictions in court. But others have gone one step further.

The Mombasa Republican Council (MRC) is a home-grown movement channeling local frustration into calls for secession. The MRC claims to be peaceful, but its members have recently been accused of attacking election officials and inciting violence.

MRC Treasurer Omar Bambam says the movement’s aim is to call attention to the coastal people’s plight.

Meanwhile, Mombasa has recently been wracked by a spate of grenade attacks and riots, some linked to the Somali terrorist group al-Shabaab. Al-Shabaab’s aims are not those of the coastal people, says Washe. But the problem of landlessness has made it easier for the group to infiltrate communities.

“They come and dig wells. They come and provide mosques. They are being welcomed as very good people, because there’s a vacuum that has been left," said Washe. "The real issue is land, but because the government is not addressing the question of land adequately, al-Shabaab comes in.”

Piry Muye stands beside a stone wall fencing off the land that was once his, Mombasa, Kenya, November 18, 2012. (H. Heuler/VOA)Piry Muye stands beside a stone wall fencing off the land that was once his, Mombasa, Kenya, November 18, 2012. (H. Heuler/VOA)
Piry Muye stands beside a stone wall fencing off the land that was once his, Mombasa, Kenya, November 18, 2012. (H. Heuler/VOA)
Piry Muye stands beside a stone wall fencing off the land that was once his, Mombasa, Kenya, November 18, 2012. (H. Heuler/VOA)
For people like 73-year-old Piry Muye, violence is not an option, and he does not even want to talk about the MRC.

Muye, who has 11 children, has already lost most of his land to a man who claims it was a gift from the president. Now, he is squatting on a small corner of his former estate, though he expects to eventually lose that too.

“Because I’m stranded, I don’t know what to do. I have got a large family, and I don’t know how I can live with this,” Muye said.

He can see his own coconut trees on the land he lost, growing tall and strong behind a stone wall. He now has to ask permission to graze his cows there.

“He allowed me, but now I find that he is now building, so I’ll have nowhere where my animals can graze," Muye added. "I’m a poor man, I have no land, so I just want help from any corner.”

Muye has not completely lost faith in the government and hopes that Kenya’s national elections in March will change things for the better. But not many coastal people share his optimism.

You May Like

HRW: Egypt's Trial of Morsi ‘Badly Flawed’

Human Rights Watch says former Egypt leader's detention without charge for more than three weeks after his removal from office violated Egyptian law; government rejects criticism More

Photogallery Lancet Report Calls for Major Investment in Surgery

In its report published by The Lancet, panel of experts says people are dying from conditions easily treated in the operating room such as hernia, appendicitis, obstructed labor, and serious fractures More

Music Industry Under Sway of Digital Revolution

Millions of people in every corner of the Earth now can enjoy a vast variety and quantity of music in a way that has never before been possible More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populationsi
April 24, 2015 10:13 PM
A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.

Video Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populations

A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.

Video Data Servers Could Heat Private Homes

As every computer owner knows, when their machines run a complex program they get pretty hot. In fact, cooling the processors can be expensive, especially when you're dealing with huge banks of computer servers. But what if that energy could heat private homes? VOA’s George Putic reports that a Dutch energy firm aims to do just that.

Video Cinema That Crosses Borders Showcased at Tribeca Film Festival

Among the nearly 100 feature length films being shown at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival in New York City are more than 20 documentaries and features with international appeal, from a film about a Congolese businessman in China, to documentaries shot in Pakistan and diaspora communities in the U.S., to a poetic look at disaffected South African youth. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.

Video UN Confronts Threat of Young Radicals

The radicalization and recruitment of young people into Islamist extremist groups has become a growing challenge for governments worldwide. On Thursday, the U.N. Security Council heard from experts on the issue, which has become a potent threat to international peace and security. VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports.

Video Growing Numbers of Turks Discover Armenian Ancestry

In a climate of improved tolerance, growing numbers of people in Turkey are discovering their grandmothers were Armenian. Hundreds of thousands of Armenians escaped the mass deportations and slaughter of the early 1900's by forced conversion to Islam. Or, Armenian children were taken in by Turkish families and assimilated. Now their stories are increasingly being heard. Dorian Jones reports from Istanbul that the revelations are viewed as an important step.

Video Migrants Trek Through Western Balkans to Reach EU

Migrants from Africa and other places are finding different routes into the European Union in search of a better life. The Associated Press followed one clandestine group to document their trek through the western Balkans to Hungary. Zlatica Hoke reports that the migrants started using that route about four years ago. Since then, it has become the second-most popular path into Western Europe, after the option of sailing from North Africa to Italy.

Video TIME Magazine Honors Activists, Pioneers Seen as Influential

TIME Magazine has released its list of celebrities, leaders and activists, whom it deems the world’s “most influential” in 2015. VOA's Ramon Taylor reports from New York.

Video US Businesses See Cuba as New Frontier

The Obama administration's opening toward Cuba is giving U.S. companies hope they'll be able to do business in Cuba despite the continuation of the U.S. economic embargo against the communist nation. Some American companies have been able to export some products to Cuba, but the recent lifting of Cuba's terrorism designation could relax other restrictions. As VOA's Daniela Schrier reports, corporate heavy hitters are lining up to head across the Florida Straits - though experts urge caution.

Video Kenya Launches Police Recruitment Drive After Terror Attacks

Kenya launched a major police recruitment drive this week as part of a large-scale effort to boost security following a recent spate of terror attacks. VOA’s Gabe Joselow reports that allegations of corruption in the process are raising old concerns about the integrity of Kenya’s security forces.

Video Japan, China in Race for Asia High-Speed Rail Projects

A lucrative competition is underway in Asia for billions of dollars in high-speed rail projects. Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia Thailand and Vietnam are among the countries planning to move onto the fast track. They are negotiating with Japan and the upstart Chinese who are locked in a duel to revolutionize transportation across Asia. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok has details.

Video Scientists: Mosquitoes Attracted By Our Genes

Some people always seem to get bitten by mosquitoes more than others. Now, scientists have proved that is really the case - and they say it’s all because of genes. It’s hoped the research might lead to new preventative treatments for diseases like malaria, as Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

Video Bible Museum Coming to Washington DC

Washington is the center of American political power and also home to some of the nation’s most visited museums. A new one that will showcase the Bible has skeptics questioning the motives of its conservative Christian funders. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky reports.

Video Armenia and Politics of Word 'Genocide'

A century ago this April, hundreds of thousands of Armenians of the Turkish Ottoman empire were deported and massacred, and their culture erased from their traditional lands. While broadly accepted by the U.N. and at least 20 countries as “genocide”, the United States and Turkey have resisted using that word to describe the atrocities that stretched from 1915 to 1923. But Armenians have never forgotten.

Video Afghan First Lady Pledges No Roll Back on Women's Rights

Afghan First Lady Rula Ghani, named one of Time's 100 Most Influential, says women should take part in talks with Taliban. VOA's Rokhsar Azamee has more from Kabul.

Video New Brain Mapping Techniques Could Ease Chronic Pain

From Boulder, Colorado, Shelley Schlender reports that new methods for mapping pain in the brain are providing validation for chronic pain and might someday guide better treatment.

VOA Blogs