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)
x
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

Video Is West Doing Enough to Tackle Islamic State?

There is growing uncertainty over whether West’s response to ISIS is adequate More

China Crackdown on Dual Citizens Causes Concern

New policy encourages reporting people who obtain citizenship in another country, but retain Chinese citizenship; move spurs sharp debate More

Video Coalition to Fight Islamic State Could Reward Assad

Losing ground to Islamic State fighters, Syria's government says it is ready to cooperate with international community More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Is West Doing Enough to Tackle Islamic State?i
X
Henry Ridgwell
August 29, 2014 12:26 AM
U.S. President Barack Obama has ruled out sending ground troops to Iraq to fight militants of the so-called Islamic State, or ISIS, despite officials in Washington describing the extremist group as the biggest threat the United States has faced in years. Henry Ridgwell reports from London on the growing uncertainty over whether the West’s response to ISIS will be enough to defeat the terrorist threat.
Video

Video Is West Doing Enough to Tackle Islamic State?

U.S. President Barack Obama has ruled out sending ground troops to Iraq to fight militants of the so-called Islamic State, or ISIS, despite officials in Washington describing the extremist group as the biggest threat the United States has faced in years. Henry Ridgwell reports from London on the growing uncertainty over whether the West’s response to ISIS will be enough to defeat the terrorist threat.
Video

Video Pachyderms Play Polo to Raise Money for Elephants

Polo, the ancient team competition typically played on horseback, is known as the “sport of kings.” However, the royal version for one annual event in Thailand swaps the horse for the kingdom’s national symbol - the elephant. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Samut Prakan reports that the King’s Cup Elephant Polo tournament is all for a good cause.
Video

Video Coalition to Fight Islamic State Could Reward Assad

The United States along with European and Mideast allies are considering a broader assault against Islamic State fighters who have spread from Syria into Iraq and risk further destabilizing an already troubled region. But as VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports, confronting those militants could end up helping the embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Video

Video Made in America Socks Get Toehold in Online Fashion Market

Three young entrepreneurs are hoping to revolutionize the high-end sock industry by introducing all-American creations of their own. And they’re doing most of it the old-fashioned way. VOA’s Julie Taboh recently caught up with them to learn what goes into making their one-of-a-kind socks.
Video

Video Americans, Ex-Pats Send Relief Supplies to West Africa

Health organizations from around the world are sending supplies and specialists to the West African countries that are dealing with the worst Ebola outbreak in history. On a smaller scale, ordinary Americans and African expatriates living in the United States are doing the same. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
Video

Video America's Most Popular Artworks Displayed in Public Places

Public places in cities across America were turned into open-air art galleries in August. Pictures of the nation’s most popular artworks were displayed on billboards, bus shelters, subway platforms and more. The idea behind “Art Everywhere,” a collaborative campaign by five major museums is to allow more people to enjoy art and learn about the country’s culture and history. Faiza Elmasry has more.
Video

Video Chinese Doctors Use 3-D Spinal Implant

A Chinese boy suffering from a debilitating bone disease has become the first patient with a part of his spine created in a three-dimensional printer. Doctors say he will soon regain normal mobility. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Uneasy Calm Settles Over Israel, Gaza Strip

Israel and the Gaza Strip have been calm since a cease-fire set in Tuesday evening, ending seven weeks of hostilities. Hamas, which controls Gaza, declared victory. Israelis were more wart. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jerusalem.
Video

Video India’s Leprosy Battle Stymied by Continuing Stigma

Medical advancements in the treatment of leprosy have greatly diminished its impact around the world, largely eliminating the disease from most countries. India made great strides in combating leprosy, but still accounts for a majority of the world’s new cases each year, and the number of newly infected Indians is rising - more than 130,000 recorded last year. Doctors there say the problem has more to do with society than science. Shaikh Azizur Rahman reports from Kolkata.
Video

Video Scientists Unlock Mystery of Bird Flocks

How can flocks of birds, schools of fish or herds of antelope suddenly change direction -- all the individuals adjusting their movement in concert, at seemingly the same time? British researchers now have some insights into this behavior, which has puzzled scientists for a long time. VOA's George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid