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Thursday, October 16, 2014
Fifty Years On The Colonised Kenyans' Struggles Continue
The 1200 acres of Twiga Farm lie in the heart of Kenya in Kiambu County, northeast of Nairobi. The area, with its green hills and fertile fields, first attracted land grabbers in the form of white settlers during the colonial regime. The Kikuyu, who had lived and cultivated these lands for centuries were forcibly reduced to being workers on the white farms. The British established a property registration system that individualized and commercialized land - contradictory to the Kikuyu tradition of sharing and valuing land. Most Africans had no access to or representation in this system, and so no means to protect their land. The legacy of this system is still being felt in many of the disputes over land seen since independence.
In 1963, the year of independence, the Kenyan government took a loan from the British government to buy back their land from the colonialist. By then Kenya was well set on its capitalist path and the largest chunks of land went to the new Kenyan political elite, who had the resources and power to buy it. It is no coincidence that the current president, Uhuru Kenyatta, son of the first president Jomo Kenyatta - himself a Kikuyu - is believed to own the largest parcels Kenya's privately held land today. Other Kikuyu, who were the largest group that were dispossessed, were relocated to other areas of the country. This seemed to work until 1992, when the end of the Cold War prompted the spread of neo-liberal democracy through an influx of conditional aid money combined with national demand for democracy.
In the first multiparty election since 1964, the political elite fomented issues over land to rally support along ethnic lines. The results were instances of Post- Election Violence since 1992 with the worst happening in 2007/2008. The clashes, however, produced Internally Displaced People, who fled their lands and the mismanagement in resettling them or rather in addressing the malfunction and injustice of the land tenure system caused further tension. Lastly, the era of investment has fully set root in Kenya, causing legal and illegal evictions, as land becomes lucrative to national and international elites to extract resources and other investment projects. Yet, citizens have been convinced to believe that land issues are a matter of scarcity and rivalries between communities, rather than as a result of land grab by national and foreign elites, companies or as part of skewed 'development schemes'.
The case of Twiga Farm can be understood against this background. After Kenya got its independence, the British settler who 'owned' the land in the colonial system, gave it back to the people who had worked for him instead of paying out their retirement funds. The people of Twiga divided the land among them, built a school and a dispensary, and made a little town. The farm was even allocated a voting station since 1964- a sign that it was recognized as a legitimate community. However, Twiga Farm residents were never issued with modern title deeds. This was not unusual at the time and indeed is the case for many communities, especially those whose land was not seized under colonialism as it was a long way from the capital city, or not particularly fertile.
It is especially these communities that are in danger of land grabs today, as new technology (e.g. in oil exploration) has made their lands lucrative for investment. The thousands of acres fertile land on Twiga Farm worth billions of Kenyan Shillings (millions of dollars) were bound to attract the interest of other forces.
In 2004, the company Mboi Kamiti claimed ownership over the land. The police threatened residents with eviction, but they responded by taking the case to court and the chief magistrate ruled in their favour declaring the residents as legal owners by right of adverse occupation. The company, however, did not give up. They went back to court in 2012, ready to dispute the original ruling, but their connections in political ranks seemed to have spared them the bothersome process. On December 20 2012 residents of Kiambu were surprised by bullets flying over their heads and bulldozers demolishing their houses. Eyewitnesses report planes flying over the maize fields, spraying bullets. Four people were shot that day and close to 4000 families displaced. The Provincial Commissioner, the local mayor and police officials at scene accused the residents of having illegally built on the land to justify the evictions. Within 6 hours of the eviction, the police themselves built a police station out of trailers and iron tents on the property. Many of the displaced people were elderly; people who have been born on the land and cultivated it their whole lives. In the course of a single day, they and their families were ejected, and robbed of shelter and livelihood. Some were forced to set up camps by the roadside, and are still there today.
In a global neo-liberal framework that demands pro-corporation, pro-profit development lead by investments, they are only one example of the massive land grabs and evictions taking place in Kenya and in Africa. The collusion of local, national and international money and power is more and more legalizing the disowning of people of their lands in the name of economic growth, development or investment.
In a global neo-liberal framework that demands pro- corporation, pro- profit development lead by investments, they are only one example of the massive land grabs and evictions taking place in Kenya and in Africa. The collusion of local, national and international money and power is more and more legalizing the disowning of people of their lands in the name of economic growth, development or investment. It is a powerful partnership to stand up against. - See more at: http://farmlandgrab.org/post/view/24039#sthash.ofj3wdGA.dpuf