Lawyer: Allegations on city land mystery motivated by politics

CS Fred Matiang'i responds to questions during grilling by the Parliamentary Committee. [Photo/Courtesy]
Having served as the legal adviser to Fred Matiang’i while he was the Cabinet Secretary for Education, I am competent to address the Ruaraka land issues and shed some light for the benefit of Kenyans. I also relate to his side of the story on this matter, which is now evolving into a mystery.

I am fully aware that the Ruaraka land is the subject of an active multi-agency investigation led by the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission.

The facts on the status of the Ruaraka land are in the public domain and Government records. The Registrar of Titles confirms that the land - LR No 7879/4 measuring 96 acres - is a private freehold property in the name of Afrison Import Export and Huelands Ltd as joint owners. The courts have on more than three occasions, affirmed this position in Misc. Civil Application No 1135 of 2007, Civil case No 617 of 2012, and JR ELC Application No 72 of 2008.

I know for a fact that while serving in the Ministry of Education, Dr Matiang’i received a request from the National Land Commission (NLC) alerting him to a complaint in the nature of a historical land injustice by Afrison Import Export Ltd to the extent that the Ruaraka Secondary and Drive-in Primary schools are established on their private land.

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In observing the law, Dr Matiang’i referred NLC to Section 107(1) of the Land Act and advised it to exercise its constitutional mandate in the matter of compulsory acquisition, emphasising that this should be done while observing due process of the law. Beyond that, NLC and the accounting officer in the Ministry of Education – the Principal Secretary responsible for Basic Education – worked on the rest of the details to finalise the acquisition process.

Unfortunately, the Cabinet Secretary has been vilified, tried and presumed guilty in the court of contrived public opinion. Allegations of wrongdoing have been flying around since the release of part payment of Sh1.5 billion by the National Treasury to the Ministry of Education, who in turn passed the money on to NLC to pay the owners of LR No 7879/4.

Among the allegations peddled is that the Ministry of Education compensated for land that was public. Nothing could be further from the truth.

It is on record in the report of the Departmental Committee on Lands of the National Assembly that there is no evidence of the land, LR No 7879/4, ever being sub-divided to create identifiable areas on which the schools sit. The Director of Surveys confirms authoritatively that the only sub-division on the land is that which produces the site acquired by the General Service Unit (LR No 7879/24) and the balance where the schools and other illegally erected structures, which is LR No 7879/25. Any ordinary Kenyan will tell whoever cares to listen that there can never be public land (without a title) inside private land.

It follows therefore that the truth remains sacrosanct: the entire land is private land and belongs to the registered owners (as per the records in the land registry which have also been upheld in court decisions). How then can a payment made through due process of the law, to the registered owners of the land, become an act of fraud? How can one justify such wild allegations that the Government lost Sh1.5 billion without offering irrefutable evidence?

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Ruaraka land is private freehold land. The NLC played its rightful role in the acquisition process, including placing a 30-day notice of the intended acquisition of the land in the Kenya Gazette. I wish to urge well-meaning Kenyans to judge Matiang’i fairly. In all fairness, Kenyans should be spared from the theatre of political witch-hunts.

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