Elgeyo Marakwet issues ultimatum to grabbers

The Elgeyo Marakwet county government has asked people who illegally own public plots and property to surrender them or face prosecution.

At least 100 acres of public land, houses and machinery have been either acquired or irregularly transferred from the former local authorities to individuals, the county says.

Governor Alex Tolgos last week said 30 acres of public land have been grabbed at Kamariny Sports Ground, approximately six kilometres from Iten, the town that is now the training ground for athletics icons.

The grabbed plots have been developed, he said, adding that the prime suspects were employees of the former local government ministry.

“We have information of individuals who have irregularly acquired houses and machinery that belong to the authorities and we want to extend amnesty to them,” Mr Tolgos said.

Without giving a timeline, he said those who ignore the call will be investigated by the anti-corruption agency and prosecuted.

He blamed the Transition Authority, the body that is overseeing establishment of the regional governments and transfer of functions, for taking long to provide assets data to help in verification of property.

Some former workers, the governor told the Business Daily, while owning up, said they were clinging to the grabbed assets because they were frustrated in efforts to get their retirement benefits.

“When we approached one of the illegal occupants of the grabbed plots in Kamariny Stadium, he admitted grabbing, saying he had grabbed to compensate himself after he got tired following his retirement benefits,” said Mr Tolgos.

The government froze disposal, use and transfer of assets prior to and after the 2013 general elections. But this is the period the county chiefs are saying the former employees saw an opportunity to target the property in question.

Other grabbed plots, the county chief said, include a five-acre prime plot used as a terminus for public service vehicles and another near Posta offices in Iten Town.

Government houses next to Tambach Teachers Training College and Tambach Secondary School have also been grabbed, he said during his monthly press briefing.

The county “inherited seven court cases” on land ownership involving individuals and local authorities, said the deputy governor Gabriel Lagat.