Amidst growing fear and anxiety, residents of Sofia Bona Phase Two in Voi, Taita Taveta County, are confronting the prospect of eviction by the National Transport and Safety Authority (NTSA). Over 100 residents, who claim to have occupied a six-acre piece of land since the 1960s, find themselves in a precarious situation as NTSA marks its boundaries, erecting beacons on the contested land.

Residents, including Erestinah Gadi, 75, express deep concerns, asserting that they were unaware of any government claims to the land until NTSA began demarcating the area. Gadi, who has resided there since 1966, emphasizes the lack of information from the government about the land’s ownership status. She pleads for an explanation and fears that their houses might be demolished.

Yusuf Rajab, another resident, highlights their futile attempts to seek clarification from NTSA during the demarcation exercise. The residents are requesting the government to explore alternative land for the proposed project and issue land ownership documents to those settled on the disputed land. Efforts to have the land surveyed and residents issued with title deeds in the past were reportedly unsuccessful.

This potential eviction follows a recent incident on January 6, 2024, where over 3,500 people were evicted from Msambweni village by a private company, Sparkle Properties Limited, claiming ownership through a court order. The evictions have led to protests and condemnation, with accusations of land grabbing and criticisms directed at local leaders for failing to protect land rights.

NTSA defends its actions, asserting that the land was allocated to the authority in 1992 for the construction of a vehicle inspection center. The authority claims to have notified residents and provided ample time for them to vacate the area. Zack Njuguna, the officer in charge of NTSA services in the county, mentions plans to construct the center with funds from the World Bank, emphasizing the need for timely action.

The dispute raises broader concerns about persistent land wrangles in Taita Taveta County, where historical land injustices and ownership disputes remain unresolved. Residents cite corruption and inefficiency in the land registry and courts as contributing factors to land grabbing and fraud. The government’s perceived slow and ineffective resolution of land conflicts adds to the challenges faced by residents in the region.

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