- Kenyan Sugar and mining companies are fighting over 2,300 acres of land in Msambweni district which they claim it was leased to both of them. A clash was brought to fore earlier this week, when Agriculture minister William Ruto and his Tourism counterpart Najib Balala toured the site of sugar project at Ramisi.
Mr Ruto expressed his confusion over the land dispute, promsing to consult with other officials to solve the dispute between the two firms amicably.
Msambweni district lands adjudication officer Samuel Odari told a meeting held in Ramisi that the land was first leased to Tiomin Kenya Ltd and later to Kwale International Sugar Company last year, sparking the dispute between the two companies.
Mr Odari said commissioner of mines and geology leased a plot to Tiomin, which is involved in mining of titanium, while agriculture ministry leased the same land to Kwale International Sugar Company.
According to Mr Odari, disputed land is part of the 15,000 acres Kenyan government has leased to Kwale International Sugar Company last year to revive the Ramisi Sugar Factory that collapsed in 1988.
"But before that happened, Commissioner of Mines had already leased the same land to Tiomin, which used it to compensate squatters at Sh80,000 (US$1,200) per acre, and was planning to mine titanium on the land," he said.
Kwale International Sugar Company agriculture manager, Ambrose Abungu, said the double lease had made it difficult for the firm to use land for cane farming, since it was inaccessible after mining company laid a claim on it.
Msambweni district commissioner Gilbert Kitio was criticised for allegedly supervising eviction of squatters in Ramisi without serving them with notices.
The criticisms mounted as area MP Omar Zonga said the DC permitted sugar firm to displace villagers whose children could not attend school for three months following the abrupt evictions.
More than 6,000 squatter families settled on the farm fields following the collapse of the Ramisi Sugar Factory in 1988.
Mr Mohamed Mwadama, a spokesman for the squatters who threatened to throw the meeting at the Kwale sugar company compound into disarray demanded compensations for the uprooted plants.
He said the 800 squatters living in the controversial piece of land would not leave, as it was the only place they have lived for decades.
Meanwhile Mr Ruto has given Kwale International Sugar Company a one-month ultimatum to show progress in a proposed sugarcane project in Msambweni District. Mr Ruto, who toured the region on Tuesday, told investors that government would support them on condition that the company showed commitment to the project.
"If you are unable to go ahead, we shall look for another investor,'' Mr Ruto had said.
A test trial for the factory is expected in September 2011 with one hundred per cent of cane sourced from Msambweni District.
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