Inside Basil Criticos Protracted Land Battle in Coast Region

  • File photo of former Taveta MP Basil Criticos while in court
    File photo of former Taveta MP Basil Criticos while in court
    File
  • Former Taveta Member of Parliament, Basil Criticos, has been at the centre of discussions following a statement by Deputy President William Ruto that he hived a section of his land to the country's second in command.

    During his tour to the coastal region, Ruto publicly disclosed that Criticos awarded him the 2,536-acre Mata Farm located in Taita Taveta county after helping him settle a loan he owed a local lender.

    Criticos, a former assistant minister for Roads and Public Works under late President Daniel Moi's regime, owned a vast land that turned into an endless cycle of conflict with squatters.

    DP William Ruto addresses a crowd during a Kenya Kwanza rally at the Msabaha stadium in Kilifi county on Wednesday, May 25, 2022..jpg
    DP William Ruto addresses a crowd during a Kenya Kwanza rally at the Msabaha stadium in Kilifi county on Wednesday, May 25, 2022.
    William Ruto

    Issues started cropping up after his 99-year leasehold lapsed even as the government failed to approve his renewal requests.

    Criticos, who was elected more than once to represent the people of Taveta in the August House, first blamed the invasion of his farm on racism and incitement. He further linked his predicaments to witchcraft.

    In May 2000, everything fell apart for Criticos, who was Kenya's only white Member of Parliament, after he was dismissed from his assistant Minister position for accusing the government of being behind his troubles.

    Later, the High Court asked the government to allow Criticos to subdivide his expansive land after he sought orders to set use 6,500 acres of the land to offset a loan of Ksh100 million.

    At that time, over 5,000 squatters had occupied the land.

    The Truth, Justice, and Reconciliation Commission of Kenya (TJRC) report detailed that between 1996 and 2003, the family of the former Taveta MP offered a proportion of the 30,000 acres of land to the government for purchase at low rate of only Ksh600 per acre to be used in settling the squatters.

    Despite losing large tracts of his land, Criticos has gained compensation through court battles.

    On May 5, a bench of three Court of Appeal Judges ordered one of the top financial institutions in the country to pay the former MP more than Ksh2.2 billion after auctioning his sisal farm 14 years ago.

    The court established that the auctioning of his 15,994.5 acres in Taita Taveta in September 2007 was undervalued.

    In 2019, Criticos stood his ground over the ownership of Salaita Hill which he fenced in 2018.

    "The land has been ours since the 70s. Those accusing me should report to the relevant government departments or sue me instead of inciting the people against me," he stated.

    Criticos explained that he is the rightful owner of the iconic land which the National Museums of Kenya declared a national monument in 2015.

    "I have a responsibility to protect and preserve this national monument for future generations. This is a national monument and just a local one," Criticos remarked.

    He has been linked to a number of lands in the Coastal region, with a number of them leading to protracted court cases.

    File photo of former Taveta MP Basil Criticos while in court
    File photo of former Taveta MP Basil Criticos while in court
    File