April 28th 2017

Top Stories / National

Rights workers come face to face with injustices against Taita landowners

“They killed my son and seriously injured my wife. My wife broke three ribs in the gun attack. Now she cannot undertake heavy duties. The thugs made away with Sh14,000 and alexandarite gemstones worth Sh2 million,” Kitumbi narrated.

By Free Press Correspondentnewsdesk@kenyafreepress.comTuesday, 30 Aug 2016 19:40 EAT

Officials from the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights, who are in Taita Taveta County to document human rights violations at mining sites, heard harrowing tales from direct victims of crimes committed by unscrupulous mining investors.

A resident narrated to the commission on Monday how he lost his son following a dispute with one investor over his own land at Mwachabo. Kitumbi Luka said he had discovered minerals on his land while digging a pit latrine, but when he sought a government license to mine the resources, he was frustrated by public officials who in the meantime gave the same rights over his land to a complete stranger named Daniel Muturi.

Shortly after his application came to naught, Muturi arrived on his Kitumbi’s land with a prospecting license and ordered the owner to vacate the land to pave way for mineral prospecting.

To Kitumbi’s utter shock, Muturi was enjoying protection from the police who harassed him. “He came on my land and kicked me out with heavy police security and began putting up a house on my land. Then they began threatening me and my family,” he narrated.

As the disagreement went on, four gun men arrived at his home one day and attacked his family members, killing his 16-year-old son on the spot. The attack happened when Kitumbi was in hiding from the armed men.

“They killed my son and seriously injured my wife. My wife broke three ribs in the gun attack. Now she cannot undertake heavy duties. The thugs made away with Sh14,000 and alexandarite gemstones worth Sh2 million,” Kitumbi narrated.

He told the commission that the attackers were targeting him during the attack. “One of the attackers was shot by his colleagues while coming out of my room. They thought that I was the one. When they realized that they had injured their accomplice, they shot him on his head completely defacing him before running away,” he said.

A day after the shooting, the three suspects were arrested by the police while in hiding at the nearby Teita Sisal Estate. They were charged at Mombasa High Court and sentenced to life imprisonment.

Kitumbi, meanwhile, got an eviction order from the court, but the matter became murkier. While the court ruled that the land belonged to him, it couldn’t establish the ownership of the mine, he told the commission.

The KNCHR’s chairperson Kagwiria Mbogori promised to follow up with the ministries of Mining and Lands to know the status and ownership of the mine on Kitumbi’s land.

The inquiry was attended by a high-powered team from the national and county government. Those from the national government were led by Taita Taveta county commissioner Josephine Onunga. Local leaders included Governor John Mruttu, his deputy Mary Ndigha, Wundanyi MP Thomas Mwadeghu, and local representatives Mary Mngola and Ahmed Omar.

Commissioners Susan Chivusia and Simon Dubai from the KNCHR and Gender Commission as well as Leonard Omulo from the National Lands Commission also attended.

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