The Ten Miles Coastal strip: An Examination of the Intricate Nature of Land Question at Kenyan Coast
Prof. Mwaruvie, John
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In 1886, the Anglo-German Treaty was signed between Britain and Germany to determine their spheres of influence in East Africa. Since none of them wanted to be in direct conflict with the sultan of Zanzibar, they decided to allocate him ten miles coastal strip running from Kipini in the north to Ruvuma River in the south. The Germans thereafter paid for the right to use the sultan’s ten mile possession on the German East African section. The British on the other hand opted to pay annual rent to the sultan equivalent to the amount of tax collected by sultan in that part adjacent to East Africa protectorate(EAP). The complexity of this treaty came into focus in 1920 when the British government wanted to change the status of EAP into a colony. The British realized that the ten miles coastal strip could not be annexed without causing international conflict because of the various treaties that the sultan had entered with various powers guaranteeing their sovereignty and control over her coastal dominions. Thus, the colonial government went for a quick fix by renaming the territory, Colony and Protectorate of Kenya. The protectorate designated the ten miles coastal strip while all the land from the ten miles became the colony. It was this quick fix that later reared its ugly face at the time of independence when the Arabs in the coastal strip rejected to be incorporated in independent Kenya. They wanted to secede to join fellow Arab administration at Zanzibar. Just like the colonialists, Kenyatta went for another quick fix by signing an agreement with the then Prime Minister of Zanzibar guaranteeing land ownership to sultans’ subjects at the expense of African inhabitants who for many centuries had remained as squatters. This paper examines the historical injustices that African inhabitants have endured over the centuries and how the various administrations have overlooked their interests. Consequently, land at the coast has become so expensive to an extent that ordinary people cannot afford. It is argued that a solution has to be found to contain the recurrent land conflicts experienced every election year.