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Centum Investigated Over Controversial Vipingo Land Deal Amid Hostility From Locals

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Centum's chief executive James Mworia.

The National Assembly Committee on Lands has commenced investigations to resolve disputes over more than 12,000 acres piece of land in Vipingo, Kilifi County, in contention between local community and investors.

The Committee chaired by North Mugirango Member of Parliament Joash Nyamoko, is set to establish the authenticity of the ideal owners of the piece of land that has been the center of dispute between the locals and Centum Investment Company who both presented their title deeds to claim ownership.

North Mugirango MP Joash Nyamoko, who is the chairperson of Parliamentary Committee on lands addressing the media at Kilifi County Governor’s residence.

Kilifi County Governor Gideon Mung’aro supported the move saying that the residents have the right to enjoy the benefits of the land if their tittle deeds will authenticated.

Munga’ro urged the committee to investigate the Public lands that have reportedly been grabbed illegally by individuals.

“It is time we know where the lands that were returned to the government disappeared to. Were they returned to the public and if so is there any evidence that they were issued back?” Mungaro said.

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Mung’aro added that the lands whose leases had already expired should also be investigated in order to end conflicts between government and members of the community.

This happens after local residents invaded the land in April 2023, machete-wielding youths numbering about 500 invaded the expansive Vipingo Sisal farm along the Mombasa-Malindi Highway claiming ancestral ownership of the land.

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They annexed a section of the farm and put up houses.

The intruders produced copies of title deeds which they alleged show the land that was leased by Vipingo Sisal Estate belonged to their forefathers.  According to them, the lease had expired.

Mr Mrima Wanyepe who claimed to be the chairman of the landless in the area said the 800-acre disputed land was supposed to be distributed at the beginning of this year.

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”Vipingo Sisal Estate lease expired and we applied to have our ancestral land reverted back, we obtained the title deed for 800 acres of the land from the Ministry of Lands which was supposed to divide it for us,” he said.

A copy of the certificate of title deed shows the document was issued on December 13 last year.

The county government of Kilifi was supposed to facilitate the adjudication and subdivision of the 800 acres for the squatters but it has been postponing the exercise.

There have been endless meetings between Centum, Mombasa Cement, locals and the county government to solve the row with the locals standing their ground that the land is theirs. Centum claims ownership of the land through subsidiary Vipingo Development Ltd.

Some 500,000 people have for years lived as squatters around the Vipingo Sisal plantation. The villagers are also in court seeking an extra 3,900 acres of the sisal plantation.

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The locals have also sued the real estate firm for the ownership of the land. Residents through a community-based organisation sought the court’s nod to be declared the registered owners of the property measuring about 3,911 acres.

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It was their argument that the certificate of lease issued to Vipingo Development Ltd was null and void.

The court heard that Bambani is a community-based organisation registered to champion community land rights and address historical land injustices arising from pre-colonial and colonial government land evictions of the locals, who have been rendered squatters.

They told the court that the land was acquired by the colonial government and later subdivided and leased out to Rea Vipingo Plantations Limited for a period of 999 years, part of which was used for sisal farming.

And before the lapse of the lease, they agitated for the land to revert back to them as they ought to have been given priority.

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Locals claimed that Rea Vipingo Plantations Limited surrendered the parcels of land in 2000 back to the government and it was subsequently allocated to them and they paid Sh6 million to acquire it.

They also claimed that they were in the process of subdividing the land when they were arrested and later released on police bond.

Centum denied the claims and said it purchased 10,254 acres from Rea Vipingo Plantations Ltd in 2015.

Squatters insist the sisal farm is their ancestral land and that they will not relent until they get it.

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