It was a miracle for Stephen Chinga, a Kenyan who lives and works in the United Kingdom (UK), when he was presented with a title deed for land he has bought in Kajiado county last weekend.
Like thousands of Kenyans in the Diaspora, who trust relatives and by extension, friends to help buy property back home, Chinga has lost thousands of shillings he entrusted in his relatives and friends to buy property for him in the country.
He narrated to the People Daily how he tried to use relatives and eventually friends to buy property but burnt his fingers in the process. “It is true that many Kenyans in the Diaspora are losing money trying to purchase property in the country. I personally tried to use brokers but I lost a lot of money in the process.
But today, I am happy. I cannot even quantify the feeling but through the Presbyterian Church, I have managed to acquire a piece of land which has been impossible in the past,” he said in an interview. He confirmed that some of his friends in the UK and others in the US have also lost money sent to relatives to purchase plots even when the same people receive extra cash for their personal use.
“We are told your money has bought this and that, but that has been a total lie. Together with my family, we were misled by some people. But today coming here and receiving a title deed individually is fantastic,” he said at the Presbyterian Church of East Africa in Ruiru when Presbeta, an investment arm of Presbyterian Church Men Foundation (PMCF), Kambui Presbytery which presented title deeds to around 400 members.
The 34-year-old recounted how one of his friends, who also resides in London bought land in Kiambu only to learn later that the property does not even exist. He, however, urged Kenyans from the Diaspora not to lose hope. An online testimony by Elvis, another Kenyan living in the State of Minnesota, US is equally disturbing. He has so far lost up to Sh1 million since he started a school project back at his Sameta village in Gucha sub-county, Kisii county seven years ago.
“The project started well, but stalled midway, and for the last four years, I have been sending money, but nothing has been happening. When I visited home last December, I was given so many stories… I don’t even know what to do,” he said. The 30-year-old is back in the US and is contemplating selling the property.
Property lawyer, Faith Waigwa, says what has happened to Chinga, Elvis and thousands of other Kenyans in the Diaspora is “outright theft and the victims have a right to sue, even if it is a relative.” “If one gives you money to buy a property and you fail to do so, then you refund the money.
If you don’t, he can go to court to claim payment of such monies and damages,” she said. Kiambu Deputy Governor, Gakuha Githinji confirmed that the county has many people who sell non-existent property, and urged buyers to be careful. “We are advising people planning to buy property to do their research first.
Once they ascertain the property is genuine, we encourage them to try and push for titles before signing purchase agreement,” said Githinji, who presided over the issuance of title deeds to Presbeta members last weekend. To make it easy for Kenyans abroad to acquire property locally, Diaspora Tours and Presbeta have organised a road show in the US between May 26 and June 10.
Presbeta chairman, Samuel Gathura, said the roadshow that will pass through Washington, Minneapolis, Boston and Dallas is to assure Kenyans in the US of safer investment platforms without fears of losing their hard -earned money. A new law toguide active participation of Kenyans in the Diaspora is in the offing.
The government has finalised a draft Kenya National Diaspora Policy, a document whose completion has immense contribution from various ministries, Kenya’s foreign missions and diaspora societies.
“We have an obligation to engage and facilitate our citizens not only in the country but also abroad. This policy has been developed to facilitate a mutually beneficial relationship between the country and the Kenyans abroad,” said Foreign AffairsCabinet Secretary Amina Mohamed.