President Uhuru Kenyatta on Thursday handed out some of the 60,000 title deeds to Coast residents as elected leaders closed ranks to support the move.
The National Land Commission on Wednesday clarified that the titles were part of a house cleaning exercise by the Lands Department before it hands over its mandate.
Some of the documents have been lying at Ardhi House since Independence.
In the past few days, some regional leaders had opposed the issuance terming it political, but the President said the titles were the beginning of a journey by the national government to find a lasting solution to the land issue at the Coast.
Mr Kenyatta said he was fulfilling pledges made during campaigns to tackle the squatter problem, adding that there was no need for the government to keep the titles in stores.
“We are moving from land question to land answer and that is why I am unveiling 60,000 title deeds as the beginning of the journey to fixing this thorny issue,” he said at State House Mombasa.
Governors Amason Kingi (Kilifi), Ali Hassan Joho (Mombasa), John Mruttu (Taita-Taveta), Hussein Dado (Tana River), Issa Timamy (Lamu) and senators Omar Hassan (Mombasa), Boy Juma Boy (Kwale), Mvita Mshenga (nominated senator Kilifi), Emma Mbura (nominated senator Mombasa) and Salim Mvurya of Kwale supported the President’s action.
The titles, Mr Kenyatta said, would empower residents through farming and facilitating loans and construction of permanent homes.
The government promised Coast leaders that they would be involved in the land processes for transparency and accountability.
The president said the government will fast track the adjudication of land in the region and ensure more titles are issued to residents annually.
“Over the years political leaders have been using the land issue to garner support from Coast residents. We are determined to end this,” he said.
Deputy President William Ruto said the Jubilee government lost heavily at the Coast to the Cord coalition in the March 4 election as residents thought President Kenyatta would not solve the land problem.
“We don’t want the land issue to be politicised as to own land is the right of every Kenyan,” the deputy president said.
MPs from the region, led by Coast Parliamentary Group chairman Gideon Mung’aro and Coast Kaya political leader Peter Shehe, threw their weight behind the title-deed programme.
Mr Kingi said: “Mr President, elections are over and, therefore, you are our president. We can no longer be divided on Cord or Jubilee lines.”
Mombasa governor Hassan Joho said he was happy that the national government had shown seriousness in solving the squatter problem.