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)
TEXT SIZE - +
— 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

Multimedia Anti-Keystone XL Protests Continue

Demonstrators are worried about pipeline's effect on climate change, their traditional way of life, health and safety More

Thailand's Political Power Struggle Continues

Court gave Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra until May 2 to prepare her defense over abuse of power charges but uncertainty remains over election timing More

Malaysia Plane Search Tests Limits of Ocean Mapping Technology

Expert tells VOA existing equipment’s maximum operating depth is around 6 kilometers as operation continues on ocean bed for any trace of MH370 More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Messagei
X
Penelope Poulou
April 22, 2014 5:53 PM
Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Message

Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pro-Russian Separatists Plan 'Federalization Referendum' in Eastern Ukraine

Pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine say they plan to move forward next month with a referendum vote for greater autonomy, despite the Geneva agreement reached with Russia, the U.S. and Ukraine to end the political conflict. VOA's Brian Padden reports from the city of Donetsk in Eastern Ukraine.
Video

Video Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Church

On April 27, two popes - John the XXIII and John Paul II - will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky says the dual canonization is part of the current pope’s program to reconcile liberals and conservatives in the Roman Catholic Church.
Video

Video In Capturing Nature's Majesty, Film Makes Case for Its Survival

French filmmaker Luc Jacquet won worldwide acclaim for his 2005 Academy Award-winning documentary "March of the Penguins". Now Jacquet is back with a new film that takes movie-goers deep into the heart of a tropical rainforest - not only to celebrate its grandeur, but to make the case for its survival. VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Boston Marathon Bittersweet for Many Runners

Monday's running of the Boston Marathon was bittersweet for many of the 36,000 participants as they finished the run that was interrupted by a double bombing last year. Many gathered along the route paid respect to the four people killed as a result of two bombings near the finish line. VOA's Carolyn Presutti returned to Boston this year to follow two runners, forever changed because of the crimes.
Video

Video International Students Learn Film Production in World's Movie Capital

Hollywood - which is part of Los Angeles - is the movie capital of the world, and many aspiring filmmakers go there in hopes of breaking into the movie business. Mike O'Sullivan reports that regional universities are also a magnet for students who hope to become producers or directors.
Video

Video Pacific Rim Trade Deal Proves Elusive

With the U.S.-led war in Iraq ended and American military involvement in Afghanistan winding down, President Barack Obama has sought to pivot the country's foreign policy focus towards Asia. One aspect of that pivot is the negotiation of a free-trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations. But as Obama leaves this week on a trip to four Asian countries he has found it very difficult to complete the trade pact. VOA's Ken Bredemeier has more from Washington.
Video

Video Autistic Adults Face Housing, Job Challenges

Many parents of children with disabilities fear for the future of their adult child. It can be difficult to find services to help adults with disabilities - physical, mental or emotional - find work or live on their own. The mother of an autistic boy set up a foundation to advocate for the estimated 1.2 million American adults with autism, a developmental disorder that causes communication difficulties and often social difficulties. VOA's Faiza Elmasry reports.
AppleAndroid