Historical land injustice in all parts of Kenya is real. Resolving it is proving elusive.
Is the vast land acquisition at the Coast by Salim bin Khalfan – the former Liwali of Mombasa – a legitimate willing-buyer-willing-seller scenario? I doubt. Under his position as Liwali, then representing the Sultan of Zanzibar, Salim bin Khalfan was privileged – just as was Kenya founding President, Jomo Kenyatta, – amassing huge chunks of land.
My concern is the inevitable displacement of Muslims at the Coast region by heirs of Salim bin Khalfan. They are selling thousands of acres at the Coast at market price, which is unaffordable to the occupants. The affected have lived in this land beyond the reach of memory, built their homes in it, and religiously paid rates. The sale risks changing population equation in favour of the moneyed, non-natives who corrupted their ways to riches and can easily purchase the parcels.
Rajab Sumba, a former Mombasa mayor, is trying to seek sympathy from President Uhuru Kenyatta, whom he is asking to intervene. But Uhuru’s father is the architect of land grabbing in Kenya’s post-independence history, and his actions might have possibly muddled the situation.
With the impending sale of parts of Coastland by heirs of Salim bin Khalfan, Mombasa will be adversely affected. The market price demanded by the heirs will likely cause an economic crisis that will give non-natives an advantage over natives.
Just like Kenyatta, there is no record that Salim bin Khalfan bought the land his heirs are laying claim, neither a proof he owned it before he became Liwali of Mombasa. Nevertheless, his inheritors questionably obtained title deeds. They are now using the document to sell the parcels at the Coast at an exorbitant price.
Salim bin Khalfan used his position, in a Kenyatta-like style, to amass vast acres for himself and his generations. His action and that of Kenyatta resulted in historical land injustices that Kenya has unsuccessfully fought for decades.
But since Salim bin Khalfan heirs have the “legal” document, irrespective of how they obtained it, they can – out of humanity and religious considerations – review the price they are quoting. I oppose selling the land at market value because the majority, especially the Muslim community, cannot afford. The charge should put into considerations the land rates occupiers have been paying for years.
Reports are rife that those who got compelled to buy the land at a market price want to sue. Salim bin Khalfan heirs should know that this will cost them greatly – and they better resolve the impasse through talks than a court of law.
Khelef Khalifa is the Chairman of MUHURI Board.