Deputy President William Ruto yesterday June 24 said his government will buy more than two million acres from absentee landlords to settle Coast squatters.
The DP said he would end the thorny land issue in the six coastal counties. He added that he is aware of the problems in the region, saying his administration will set aside funds to buy land and settle squatters in Taita Taveta, Mombasa, Kilifi, Kwale, Lamu and Tana River.
Landlessness sparks emotive debate, especially during the electioneering period. He said the agenda of Azimio la Umoja One Kenya coalition party presidential candidate Raila Odinga is changing the Constitution and not improving the economy.
The DP said his government will reduce the prices of agricultural input and food. “They are busy with their interests instead of fixing the economy,” he said in Wundanyi, Taita Taveta, during a rally at the town’s bus terminus.
Dr Ruto blamed the March 9, 2018 handshake between President Uhuru Kenyatta and Mr Odinga “for diverting the Jubilee government’s Big Four Agenda, leading to food insecurity”.
“The food security agenda was diverted by the handshake.”
Kwale Governor Salim Mvurya said Azimio has no genuine agenda for the Coast. He dismissed the promises by Mr Odinga, saying he failed to help the region when he was Prime Minister.
Mr Mvurya said the transfer of Mombasa Port operations to Naivasha has hurt over 8,000 residents, who depended on it for livelihoods. “Within the first 100 days, the Kenya Kwanza government will return port operations to Mombasa. That is why I’m urging you to vote for the DP. We have agreed that all land issues will be resolved.”
Other leaders who accompanied the DP blamed the government for the soaring food prices.
Machakos governor Alfred Mutua and Tharaka Nithi senator Kithure Kindiki said the DP will tackle food prices once he takes over. “The government will ensure all citizens have access to healthcare and all businesses will thrive,” Dr Mutua said, adding despite the government using public resources to persuade voters to support Mr Odinga, he will not win the presidential contest. “They say they will use police and chiefs to vote for them, but we are not intimidated.”
Taita Taveta Woman Representative Lydia Haika urged the locals to support Dr Ruto, saying his bottom-up economic strategy will put money in their pockets. She rallied women to support the DP, saying he had committed to working with them by signing a charter that will benefit them.
“Azimio does not have such a commitment because they do not know the problems of the ordinary Kenyans,” she said.
She said Kenyans are bearing the brunt of the harsh economic crisis, with families sleeping hungry as they cannot afford costly food commodities.
“We’ve received reports of people fainting because of hunger. The situation is out of hand because those leading this country have never experienced such problems.”
Former Governor John Mrutu asked the DP to ensure his government resolves land and human-wildlife conflict in the county. He said many locals are squatters, hence the need to buy off the land in Paranga to settle them. Mr Mrutu said if elected he will revive the health and agriculture.