The three security camps in Mandera County that have been built on a contentious parcel of land are set to be relocated after the County Assembly resolution.
The County’s committee for Lands, Housing and Physical Planning has recommended the camps to be moved within six months, citing that the owners were short-changed in the transaction with the National Government.
The committee chairperson, Ms Halima Billow Omar, further directed for a full waiver of the accumulated land rates going back to 2015.
The land in question, was first inhabited by National Youth Service (NYS) that was deployed for the construction of the Kenya-Somalia border wall in 2014, and it consists of 281 plots. The Rapid Deployment Unit (RDU) and the Kenya Defence Forces (KDF), later built the current camps after the departure of NYS.
The local Warankara residents through their MCA Ahmed Gabnan Ali, appealed to the County Assembly, claiming that the owners were duped into selling their land.
The land dispute dates back to 2014, when the NYS was allowed by the County and National Governments, to set up a provisional base on the land. However, the subsequent occupation by KDF and the Rapid Deployment Unit troops, have caused disputes over the pieces of land.
The three security troops (NYS, KDF and RDU) were stationed in the area, to help build the defence wall, and beef up security against the terror attacks from Somali-based group Al-Shabaab militants
Addressing Mandera County assembly, the County Lands CEC Mr Adan Hussein, said that the agreement between the local authorities and the National Government was for short-term occupation of the land. He further told the committee that decision was made without residents’ participation.
It also emerged that contentious land is designated for the construction of a municipal market, three mosques, a health centre, a library and a police post in the area.
Mandera County has reiterated that the occupancy of the land was supposed to be temporary, thus the County government should not be obliged to pay the initial land owners any compensation.
The Lands CEC, also noted that the said land is still being deliberated by security agencies, as it is strategic for construction of security camps.
“Barwaqo was the most suitable site for temporary security camps due to its proximity to the Kenya-Somalia border where the threats emanated from unlike Shafshafey, another area we had proposed,” Mr Hussein told the committee.
Mr Sabriya Hussein Mohamud, one of the aggrieved owners told the Lands Committee they have been paying land rates for the disputed plots since 2015, with the hope that they will develop the land one day.
Another local, Mr Rashid Adan Kullow also lamented that he has been unable to develop his three plots that are adjacent to the camps due hostility from the security officers.
“The area near the camps is very risk and due to intimidation and fear of security forces, I cannot settle on my land. I stay in a rented house,” he said.