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

China Investigates Former Powerful Security Chief

Former security chief and member of Politburo Standing Committee, Zhou Yongkang, under investigation for suspected 'serious disciplinary violation' More

India, US Look to Reset Ties During Kerry Visit

This week's talks will be first high level interaction between two countries since Prime Minister Narendra Modi took charge More

Video Young African Leadership Program Renamed to Honor Mandela

YALI program, launched by President Obama in 2010, aims to build skills in business, entrepreneurship, public management and civic leadership More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spati
X
Reasey Poch
July 28, 2014 7:18 PM
China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spat

China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video ESA Spacecraft to Land on a Comet

After a long flight through deep space, a European Space Agency probe is finally approaching its target -- a comet millions of kilometers away from earth. Scientists say the mission may lead to some startling discoveries about the origins of the water on earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Young Africans Arrive in US for Leadership Program

President Barack Obama's Young African Leadership Initiative has brought hundreds of young Africans to the United States for a six-week program aimed at building their knowledge and skills in fields such as public administration and business. Out of the 50,000 young Africans who applied for the program, just one percent was accepted. VOA's Laurel Bowman caught up with some of those who made the cut and has this report.
Video

Video In Honduras, Amnesty Rumors Fuel US Migration Surges

False rumors in Central America are fueling the current surge of undocumented young people being apprehended at the U.S. border. The inaccurate claims suggest the U.S. will give amnesty to young migrants from the region. As VOA's Brian Padden reports from Honduras, these rumors trace back to President Obama's 2012 executive order to halt deportations for some young undocumented immigrants already living in the United States.
Video

Video Students in Business for Themselves

They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid