Raila, Ruto camps in exchange over thorny land issue

Written by on 27 May 2022

The emotive land issue – which has for years remained a political hot potato – has taken centre-stage in the campaigns pitting Deputy President William Ruto and Azimio leader Raila Odinga, both front-runners in the presidential race set for August.

Yesterday, Raila used a campaign rally in Busia to criticise Ruto, alleging the Deputy President was not qualified to address land inequalities in the country.

His was in response to Ruto’s  Wednesday  promise to establish a fund to buy off huge tracts of land from absentee owners and use it to resettle squatters, especially at the Coast. A day earlier, Ruto was quoted by a section of the media as having said he acquired 2,500 acres at the Coast from former Taita Taveta MP Basil Criticos after helping him to offset a loan.

Raila allies lunged on the statement, challenging Ruto to share part of his land with squatters. Ruto, on the other hand, dismissed the nomination of Mombasa governor Hassan Joho as Lands Cabinet Secretary should Azimio-One Kenya Coalition form the next government after the August 9 election. 

Raila, who addressed rallies in Butula and Nabale in Busia, said Ruto did not understand the land issues affecting the Coast region. He also questioned how the DP acquired some of his property.

“Just the other day, I mentioned that I will have Hassan Joho as Cabinet Secretary for Lands so that he can address land issues in the Coast and the country at large. Now he (Ruto) is claiming he will establish a fund to buy land and give it to people who are landless,” Raila told a campaign rally.

“I am telling him to read the history of Kenya. The British government – while giving Kenya freedom – created a fund to buy land. People bought land through that fund. We can’t go back there”.

According to him, there are historical injustices that Ruto does not understand.

“You have not read the history about coastal land issues. We (Azimio) know the problem and we have the solution,” he said.

The DP, in his ongoing campaigns at the Coast, said he was “very much aware that land is a thorny issue in the region.”

He said that if elected, his government will set aside funds to buy land and identify squatters in the region to settle them.

“We are going to set up a special fund where we will set aside government money to buy off the land from the absentee landlords and subdivide it to people from the Coast so that they can stop living like squatters in their country,” Ruto said on Wednesday.

Kilifi Governor Amason Kingi, who left the Raila camp to join Ruto, dismissed Joho’s nomination, claiming the appointment was inconsequential. According to him, Azimio-One Kenya does not have a clear plan on how to tackle land problems.

Joho’s nomination 

“To them, by allocating a land minister post to a coastal person, they have solved the problem. But we want to tell them Darius Mbela, the son of Taita Taveta, was once a Lands minister and we still have problems; Eliud Mwamunga, also from Taita Taveta, was also a Lands minister, yet we still have problems. Noah Katana Ngala was also a minister in charge of lands, yet we still have land issues. Ask yourself, why are all those sons of ours we appointed as ministers for Lands but coast people are still suffering?” he asked.

“It’s because they are given rifles without ammunition. We just do not want a ministry. We want a proper programme that will enable the minister to deal with land issues. In Kenya Kwanza, the agreement that we signed with Ruto, it does not matter who becomes the minister for Lands, the Coast issues will be addressed,” Kingi said.

Raila’s allies led by Suna East MP Junet Mohamed yesterday dismissed the promises by the DP, saying he has in the past faced charges related to the irregular acquisition of land.

“Ruto cannot be trusted to bring land reforms,” Junet said. He was accused of acquiring 2,500 acres of land on Coast in a questionable way. He has been linked to ownership of ADC (Agriculture Development Cooperation) land in Nanyuki. He is grappling with allegations of grabbing Weston Hotel land. If you are the problem, how can you find a solution?” Junet said.

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