48-year land tussle pitting 60,000-acre Solio Ranch

NATIONAL |

Ex-Lands Minister Jackson Angaine addressing a baraza in Meru town, 1964. [File, Standard]

For six years, Mwangi Mjumbe, a former freedom fighter had been waiting for this day. And on March 14, 1973, as he stepped out of State House, Nakuru, he was grabbed by security officers.

They frisked him and demanded for his briefcase but he did not have as he had handed it to an aide a few moments earlier. In the briefcase was a freshly signed letter of allotment for 60,000 acres of land sprawled across Laikipia and Nyeri. He had received the letter in a brief ceremony presided over by President Jomo Kenyatta in the presence of Lands Minister Jackson Angaine and Attorney General Charles Njonjo.

What was supposed to be the happiest day for Mjumbe, who was leading a company of peasants, Gucokaniriria Kihato Gia Gichagi Farmers Company limited marked the beginning of a nightmare that went on for 48 years.

Mjumbe was arrested, Kihato’s offices in Nairobi were at the same time raided by the police who carted away all records including registers. They also broke into the company safe and took some money.

Guchokaniria Kihato Gia Cichagi Farmers company was de-registered, and all the officials fled from Nairobi and started operating underground.

Eleven years later on November 11, 1981, the company successfully sued the Government and got some reprieve.  A decade later they won another battle when the court ordered the Government to pay Sh47,879 which its officers had taken from the company offices. The money was paid on October 10, 1996, and by then it had increased to Sh128,191.

In 2006, long after Mjumbe had died, High Court judge Effie Owuor ruled that the peasants were entitled to new land documents since the Government had been unable to trace the original it seized from the company in 1973. 

The peasants thought they had finally won the battle to occupy 60,000 of Solio Ranch which they claimed had been allocated to them by the Government in 1973 after they paid the required fees.

Njonjo countered claims that he had snatched the ranch from the peasants arguing that he only became a director in 1982, two years after ceasing to be the AG. According to Njonjo, Solio had been registered as owners of the disputed land in November 1965.

All the founding directors of Kihato farmers company are dead. The original orders directing the Government to issue ownership documents for the 60,000-acre piece of land were set aside after Solio Ranch said it had been condemned without being heard since they were not party to the original suit. 

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