Gongoni residents warned against invading salt land

A worker at one of the salt manufacturing companies/ firms which also play pivotal role in MalindI's economy. PHOTO: COURTESY.

Kilifi, KENYA: Residents of Gongoni in Malindi sub-county have been warned against invading land owned by salt manufacturers in the area.

Kilifi County Commissioner Joseph Keter during a stakeholders meeting  on Thursday said that activists have been inciting the local community to encroach on the land owned by the companies.

During the event Keter gave out a monthly report that compiled by Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) groups committee highlighting the achievements and challenges for the communities living in the salt belt.

Those present included owners of the salt firms, Magarini Sub County security team, officers from the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA), their forestry counterparts.

Others present included Magarini Sub County administrator Silas Ngundo and Kilifi County Land Management Board secretary Ummy Kugula was also present to represent the National Land Commission (NLC).

“We have seen in the recent past an emergency of pressure groups inciting the locals to invade farms and then claim to own them,” said Keter.

“They should stop immediately because that is discouraging investors from investing in the county,” added Keter.

He said the county security committee will not hesitate to take legal action against the inciters.

He further  gave a one week ultimatum to salt miners who had closed a road leading to the ocean to open it immediately since it is a public land.

“This is a government land and the investors were given the land by government to invest in it with various reasons including creating job opportunities for the locals,” said Keter.

Keter said the locals claimed the road had been closed by the investors whereby contrary it emerged that the locals themselves running small salt mines had encroached on the road.

“I am giving one week ultimatum to move out of the area to allow for the road construction,” he told the chairman of the miners who was present.

Chairman, CSR committee Samuel Mwandoro told Baraka FM that the committee was formed in 2015 to act as a bridge between salt investors and the Magarini community.

He said it was also meant to oversee the identification, presentation and implementation of all CSR projects on behalf of the community.

“There was a public inquiry on human rights which was done in 2005 and sponsored by the Kenya Commission on Human Rights about the status of the Magarini people living in the salt belts,” said Mwandoro.

“After much deliberation between the investors and the community we formed the CSR committee to serve as a bridge between the investors and the community,” he said.

Kenya Association of manufacturers (KAM) Gongoni community liaison officer Patrick Gambo said they have been conducting monthly forums to enhance the relationship between the community and the investors.

“There has been historical issues that have led to several dialogues between the investors and the community, basically sensitizing the locals on the best way to handle the challenges,” he said.

He said the government had promised to give alternative land to those who were evicted from their land by the salt mines but the delay by the government to give the land had led to standoff at some point.

“Some of the squatters have been compensated by investors but they have not been shown the land by the government. That has led to some of the squatters still remaining on the land despite compensation.” said Gambo.