Stalled sugar mill to be built after court orders return of 843-acre land

Rights activist Okiya Omtatah to sue Mumias and Busia sugar companies in 2012. [George Njunge]
A court has revoked the title deed of land belonging to cane farmers that had been allocated to a sugar firm.

The ruling by the High Court in Bungoma puts to rest a six-year legal battle on the ownership of the 843-acre Nasewa Nucleus Estate.

The land was acquired by the Government from Nasewa residents in the 1990s and given to Busia Sugar Company (BSC) for construction of a sugar factory to benefit sugarcane farmers in the region.

The company was never set up but existed only on paper. It was later placed under receivership with Mumias Sugar Company (MSC) claiming the estate on grounds that the firm owed it Sh100 million.

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Mumias later put up the land for sale to a private company, Kaplony Enterprise Ltd. The decision prompted human rights activist Okiya Omtatah to sue Mumias and Busia sugar companies in 2012.

Other respondents in the case were former Nairobi Governor Evans Kidero, Wetang’ula, Adan and Makokha Advocates, Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions, and the Agriculture, Fisheries and Food Authority.

Part of Mr Omtatah’s prayers were for the court to declare any alienation, transfer of encumbrance of Nasewa Nucleus Estate to Busia Sugar Company, Mumias Sugar Company or Kaplony Ltd null and void since everything was done illegally.

Private property

Omtatah also wanted the court to declare that Nasewa Estate was not private property.

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On July 31, Environment and Land Court judge Samuel Mukunya ordered the land be reverted back to the Government for the purpose of establishing a sugar factory that would economically benefit Busia sugar farmers.

“It is, therefore, my view that the suit land should revert to the acquiring Government ministry so as to achieve the initial objective of acquisition to build a sugar factory for public benefit and to protect the public interests,” reads part of the judgment.

It adds: “I am persuaded by the case law that once the land was compulsorily acquired, in accordance with the provisions of the repealed Land Acquisition Act, it became the property of the Government to be used for the public’s benefit.”

The judge noted that it is was evident that BSC was a private limited company with shares being issued to the Government of Kenya, MH Da Gama Rose - the representative of Booker Tate in Kenya - and Reliant Holdings Ltd.

Justice Mukunya concluded that it was wrong for the land, which was donated by locals, to be allocated to private companies for their own use.

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Busia Sugar CompanyMumias Sugar CompanyHigh Court