You'll lose your land if it stays idle for 10 years

A person who doesn't develop his land for over 10 years has no right to claim ownership, a court has ruled.

Environment and Land Court judge Anne Omollo made the decision in a case where Abdalla Juma, a marine engineer, lost his two-acre land in Mombasa to a businessman who developed it while he was abroad.

Justice Omollo ruled that although there was proof that Mr Juma bought the land in 1982 and had all original registration titles, he could not reclaim the land after it was sold to the businessman who went ahead to develop it.

"Equity aids the vigilant not the indolent. He was the first to buy the land but failed to take physical possession to bar interest in future buyers. I cannot therefore find that the second buyer engaged in fraud when he had the land registered in his name and went ahead to develop it," Omollo ruled.

Juma said he bought the two parcels of land in Mtwapa, Mombasa County from a Tobana Bashek in February 1982. He then contracted a surveyor to prepare the deed plans which he took to the Land Control Board and later issued with the title deeds.

Being a marine engineer, he stated that he used to travel long distances and could be away from the country for up to 10 years. It was one of the occasions when he had been out of the country in 1993 that he learnt that someone was building on his plots.

"I followed all the applicable procedures to ensure that the land was properly registered. From that time, I kept the original documents and was surprised when I was informed that another person had also bought the land and was building on it," said Juma.

In 2004, he sued Zamal Mohammed Yunis for fraudulently taking his land. He wanted the court to compel Mr Yunis to vacate the land.

In his defence, Yunis said he was notified in 1993 that the land was available for sale after which he approached a Hamis Kombo who agreed to sell the land to him. When he asked Kombo about the land's title he was informed that they were lost. It was then that he instructed another surveyor to prepare a new deed plan which he used to register the land.

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