JIKA land controversy: Where it all started

John Kathumba Makuthi was a businessman who was once locked up in Kapenguria together with political detainees associated with Mau Mau after he rejected a proposal to work for the colonialgovernment.

Prior to his detention, Kathumba had emigrated from Mitaboni sub-location in Machakos County to Nairobi to work as a manager for a colonial settler, Laura Ellen Woodley, who at the time owned the land.

The colonial settler had secured the land after being granted a lease in 1917 for 999 years and consequently employed Kathumba as his manager.

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According to Kathumba’s daughters, Litha Katumbi and Amina Mbula, the old man had two wives, their mother Esther Nzula who died in 199, and Beatrice Syokau, who had no children.

As a manager, Kathumba was allowed to keep some livestock which grazed around the area, that is today known as Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA). He was later to fall afoul with the government after he refused to serve as a policeman to combat the Mau Mau and was ultimately detained at Kapenguria, where he was at one time assigned the duties of a cook.

In a letter to President Uhuru Kenyatta dated June 19, 2018, Litha and Amina had written “after schooling, he was detained alongside your late father in Kapenguria between 1952-1956”.

They added, “During the expansion of JKIA, the late Mzee Jomo Kenyatta promised our father that his piece of land would not be acquired by the government. As a result, Kenya Pipeline exchanged their piece of land with the family’s so that oil tankers could use it.”

The family complains that they were victims of a vicious cartel that took advantage of Kathumba’s sickness and illegally subdivided the land which was then sold to other companies.

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The family accuses a former Lands commissioner, an ex-governor who at one time worked as a surveyor and a former Lands registrar as the authors of their misfortunes.

Litha and Amina also accuse a lawyer who at one time acted for their mother but abused her trust by fraudulently acquiring the power of attorney which was used to disinherit Syokau and the real descendants of Kathumba.

Despite her illiteracy, Syokau battled the cartels but they outwitted her on May 3, 2010 when they abducted her from her home in Mombasa Road and held her until a few days to her death in 2014. Even in death, Syokau is still a prisoner of the tormentors for there is a dispute over who should bury her body. Some of the people she had accused of stealing her land are staking a claim on her body.

Her remains are still held at a privately owned mortuary as the family battles people they describe as “outsiders” given the burial permit to inter her in court.

In the meantime, there is an ongoing inquest at Makadara Law Courts to determine what caused her death as some of her relatives believe she was killed so that her land could be grabbed.

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JKIAJomo Kenyatta International AirportPresident Uhuru KenyattaJomo KenyattaJomo Kenyatta