Storm brews over Del Monte land in Murang’a, Kiambu

Friday, September 15th, 2023 05:22 | By
Part of the vast Del Monte land that straddles Kiambu and Murang’a counties. PHOTO/Print

A vicious political storm is brewing in Murang’a and Kiambu counties over the usage of portions of land hived off the larger Del Monte Kenya whose land lease has expired.

As part of the agreement to renew Delmonte’s land lease, governors from the two counties had struck a deal with the food processing company that it cedes some portions of the land for their respective use.
Kiambu was to get 795 acres while Murang’a was to be allocated 3,000 acres out of the 23,000 acres that the company owns that sprawls across the two counties.

According to documents from the National Land Commission (NLC), 5,000 acres of the land are in Kiambu while the remaining 18, 000 acres are in Murang’a county.

The usage of the 795 acres in Kiambu and 3, 000 acres in Murang’a has ignited a political storm that has now sucked in Cabinet Secretaries, MPs and leaders from the two regions, with the Kiambu Members of the County Assembly going a step further to threaten their governor Kimani Wamatangi with impeachment.

In 2020, then Kiambu governor Ferdinand Waititu signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the company’s Managing Director Stergios Gkaliamoutsas, agreeing to facilitate the renewal of leasehold for the firm’s 5,000-acre land in Kiambu for another 99 years.

Repossessed leases

And on May 20, the NLC had written to the county confirming that it had repossessed the leases for LR Nos. 12203/1 and 12203/3, after the 99 year period for Del Monte’s expired in 2019.

“With the leases having expired, the affected land reverted to public land under the County Government of Kiambu in line with Article 62 of the Constitution of Kenya, 2010. The County Government of Kiambu has proceeded to have the land preplanned and surveyed in the exercise of its rights, the head lessor,” states a letter by Prof David Kuria, on behalf of NLC.

Prof Kuria’s letter to the County Executive Committee Member for Planning, Ms. Salome Wainaina goes ahead to reveal that the devolved unit has already begun negotiations with Del Monte Farm for the renewal of the lease, using its pre-emptive right, intending to have the rights granted to it, including the right to have a portion of the land utilized for other public uses, evaluated in their favour.

Affordable Housing Scheme

And with that in mind, governor Wamatangi has been working on modalities to construct the County’s Aggregation and Industrial Park (CAIP), an Export Processing Zone (EPZ) and affordable housing units on the 100 acres that Del Monte had ceded to the county earlier.

In an interview with the People Daily, Wamatangi says while there have been tussles over the proposed EPZ site along Kenol Road in Murang’a County, Kiambu County has 100 acres of idle land ceded by the processor that is ideal for an EPZ.

“Unlike other counties, we don’t have any dispute with Del Monte Ltd. over land. We have all the documents from NLC. Given the population of Thika of about half a million and their proximity to the said land, Thika is the one that deserves an EPZ,” said Wamatangi. Sources within Kiambu now say that some of the MCAs and MPs are opposed to Wamatangí’s proposal for the construction of an EPZ on the land.

“While the governor wants an EPZ to be constructed on the land, some MCAs and MPs want a share of the land for their personal use. This is what has caused friction in the county,”said one MCA who declined to be named due to the sensitivity of the matter.

With the prices of land in the area ranging between Sh10 million and Sh20 million per acre, sources say some leaders are angling themselves to cash in on the sale once the plots are subdivided. A section of the MCAs have in the last one month been accusing the county chief of dictatorship, poor leadership, and an inability to oversee the county development.

The MCAs accused Wamatangi of being a lone ranger, being unable to work with other leaders, failing to include other important people in decision-making, and slow infrastructural developments at the Ward level during a press conference held at the county assembly.

The Ward representatives alleged that since he assumed office, the governor cannot illustrate the projects he has undertaken, save for the distribution of weeks-old chicks and fertilizer to farmers. According to Karuri MCA Peter Njoroge Wainaina, the governor has been sabotaging elected MCAs by using members of his Wamatangi Foundation as foot soldiers and replacing them in administrative mandates.

But while addressing Gatundu residents late last month during a chicken distribution event, Wamatangi argued that his political enemies are using Ward representatives as pawns in a larger scheme to discredit him. And while the MCAs and Wamatangi are pulling on different sides for the usage of the land, Thika MP Alice N’gang’a has joined in with a different proposal that the land should be reserved for the construction of a school.

More on News