Narok county wins back 4,000 acres of Maasai Mara National Reserve

Narok County has finally wrestled 4,000 acres of Masai Mara Game Reserve from a businessman who was claiming ownership.

The entire bench of the Supreme Court unanimously ruled that it was unlawful for Livingstone Ntutu to claim ownership of part of the national reserve using a contested title.

Livingstone is the scion of the late Senior Chief Lerionka ole Ntutu and a brother of former Narok Senator Stephen ole Ntutu.

Chief Justice David Maraga, his deputy Philomena Mwilu, judges Mohammed Ibrahim, Jackton Ojwang, Smokin Wanjala, Njoki Ndung’u and Isaac Lenaola overturned a Court of Appeal decision that granted Mr Ntutu the disputed land’s ownership.

They also directed that the dispute be referred back to the Environment and Land Court to determine the legality of the land’s title.

“We are certain the Court of Appeal made a mistake in allowing the respondent to assume ownership without ascertaining legality of the land’s title,” ruled the judges.

The dispute over 4,000 acres of the world renown tourist attraction site started in 1984. Then the defunct County Council of Narok granted Ntutu and his company, Ol Kiombo Limited a 33-year lease to run hospitality services for tourists visiting the game reserve.

The lease was cancelled in 1992 and the area gazetted as a national reserve. But Ntutu moved to court to repossess the land and in 2005 signed a consent with the county council to allow him continue operating within the national reserve.

Later, the county argued that it did not authorise the consent. In 2014, High Court Judge Lady Justice Pauline Nyamweya revoked the consent and ordered the land returned to the county.

The businessman filed an appeal and judges Roselyn Nambuye, Daniel Musinga and Jamila Mohammed overruled the High Court and reinstated the land to Ntutu on the grounds that the consent was binding and that the 4,000 acres were not part of the national reserve.

The county then moved to the Supreme Court it argued that the Appellate Judges made a mistake by considering irrelevant factors to grant Ntutu the land’s ownership.

Through lawyer Tom Ojienda, the county submitted that Ntutu irregularly acquired the land’s title resulting in the alienation of part of the national reserve.

The Supreme Court agreed, ruling that the allegation of unconstitutionality and illegality of the land’s title must be determined by the environment court.

“The consent claimed by the respondent could not be upheld by the Court of Appeal as it was patently illegal and unenforceable,” ruled the judges.

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