By Ben Leshau and Obegi Malack
Reckless sale of land has been synonymous with the pastoralist Maasai community for many years now and although, with high advocacy, the cases have drastically dropped, a new crop of the community members have devised ways of selling land behind their families’ backs.
The recent revelation by a security committee in Narok opened the Pandora’s box on how some rapacious, selfish men are now getting imposters purporting them to be their spouses to go to land boards in order to give ‘consent’ for them to sell land.
After it was realized that some men just pick any women pretending that they were their wives to approve the sale of family land, leading to widespread disinheritance and abject poverty in the area, the security team has sprung to action to curb the rapacious trend.
Narok County Commissioner George Natembeya is on record having decried majority of the locals engaging in reckless and rampant sale of their birthright.
The County Commissioner noted that there has been a worrying trend of some men randomly picking up women purporting to be their wives who consent the sale of land.
Natembeya has also warned such men against reckless sale of land soon after obtaining title deeds and instead urged them to use the land ownership document to borrow loans to develop the land.
He said: “Going forward I have instructed the Land Registrar to ensure that those seeking consent to sell land as a couple provide proof that they are indeed husband and wife. I have heard that some men just pick any woman in the streets to justify sale of land. This must stop.”
The County Commissioner also appealed to the members of the pastoral community to shun the urge to get money through land sale, saying after they sell the land they will have nowhere to graze their livestock.
“Title deed is a legal entitlement to land, a factor of production. Once you obtain your title deed after adjudication of land, do not sell it but instead use it as collateral to get loans to engage in agribusiness,” counseled the commissioner.
A spot-check revealed that majority of the Maasai community men sell their land at throw-away prices and then gulp up the proceeds with twilight girls in endless drinking sprees and consequently throwing their families into squalor.
John Karia, a resident of Melili in Narok North narrated how his neighbour was lynched by his sons after it was found that he had spent all the money he got from fraudulently selling their ancestral land.
“This family was wealthy. They had about 200 acres of arable land, but the man was duped by a woman to sell the land and set up a business. By then, his eldest son was in high school and often he could miss school due to lack of school fees,” Karia told County Press.
It was after the son completed high school that he learnt that his father had sold almost the entire land, leaving them with a paltry eight acres.
It was upon inquiry that he found out that he had been conned by a mistress who later fled with the cash, leaving the old man a pauper. A fight between the two ensued and the man was hacked to death by his own son.
The script is the same in neighbouring Kajiado County as well. Instances of husbands using “fake wives” to sell their ancestral land have been on the increase; young couples are the most affected. Husbands are known to use all means to ensure the land is sold.
The Kajiado County Executive Committee (CEC) Member in charge of land Hamilton ole Parseina told County Press that they have witnessed such cases of men selling their land without consent of their wives using women imposters.
“They sell the property accompanied by individuals who are not their wives. The Land Control Board is to blame since it is not strict in ensuring such cases do not happen,” he said.
He said they should scrutinise to ensure individuals accompanied by these men are their real wives.
“The board consists of officials of National Government. We have presented names of individuals from our County Government who should also sit in the board,” he explained.
He noted that Lands Cabinet Secretary Farida Karoney is expected to gazette the names.
Land Control Boards (LCBs) are established under the Land Control Act for streamlining specified agricultural land transactions.
Politicians and land activist Daniel Teenai said he is not aware of such cases, but is aware of men who persuade their wives to give consent for the sale of ancestral land but later refuse to share the money after it has been deposited in the husband’s bank account.
He said if there are such cases of “imposter wives” they must be of young couples who are 45 years and below.
“These are people whose wives have no family names in their identity cards. In the past men used to change their wives’ names when they got married but nowadays it does not happen, and young people have taken advantage of this,” he stated.
“Men should respect families and involve wives when doing the transactions,” he added.
Francis Mwangi, a land dealer in Kajiado West Sub County noted that he strictly ensures that he visits the sellers and buyers in their homes to identify the family to ascertain genuineness of transactions.
Advocates Ann Kinyua and Wilfred Maranga of Wann Law Advocates in an interview with this reporter said whenever a person is transferring any interest in matrimonial property by way of lease, sale, gift or creating an encumbrance, such as a charge or a mortgage, the spouse of the said person must give his or her consent for such a transaction to be valid.
The spouse giving consent must have had independent legal advice before giving the consent. The consent must be given voluntarily void of fraud or coercion.
Maranga noted that the spouse has to have a spousal consent, which is a sworn affidavit; if a person is single he has also to swear an affidavit to that effect. Swearing affidavit indicates that the information you provided is true.
Legal action can be taken if the spouse provides fake documents including using an individual who is not his or her spouse, he observed. The advocates when doing the transaction have no role of investigating if the individuals are spouses. An individual who thinks the spouse has done transactions without involving him or her has a right to legal recourse.