Families fight eviction in ‘Sh10m’ land battle

Peter ole Sono displays a file containing copies of title deeds, during an interview at Ol Jorai in Nakuru County, on Wednesday. [Kipsang Joseph, Standard]
Keziah Muthoni pensively looks at her picturesque farm. The 54-year-old is worried this could be the last she is seeing of the lush green maize field extending as far as the eyes can see. “I do not know where I will go from here,” she says.

Her hope and that of other 6,800 members of the Ol Jorai Land Buying Company is in the hands of the appellate court.

The judges will determine whether Muthoni and her family were legally settled on the 8,018 acres of land that was the former Ol Jorai Agricultural Development Cooperation land (ADC).

A week after the Environment and Lands Court in Nakuru declared over 3,300 title deeds in the hands of members of the company fraudulent. The aggrieved members are now preparing to file an appeal.

Justice Sila Munyao in a judgment delivered on November 27, 2019 ordered the Director of Surveys to expunge Registry Index Maps bearing title deeds in Kiambogo/Kiambogo Bloc 3 (Ol Jorai Company Limited).

The court noted that Solai Ruiyobei Company was and is the legal owner of the parcel of land. “That the land parcel LR No. 20229/1 has never been lawfully subdivided and remains intact and the tittle thereof still remains registered in the name of Solai Ruyobei Farm Limited,” read the judgment in part.

Solai Ruiyobei says the court is at liberty to apply for an order of eviction or deal with the said land as they may wish.

Muthoni, whom the Saturday Standard visited at her home says she is living in fear. She cannot believe that a 10-acre parcel of land she has been occupying since 1993 is not hers as she used to know.

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The documents in her custody are no longer valid as they were declared null and void.

“I was silent, shocked and yet to know what to do. I have been living here since 1993, my 12 children know this place as their home,” Muthoni says. The disturbed mother says she has invested all her strength in the land, her source of livelihood and income.

She is not the only one in distress as Opar ole Seret also lives in fear.

“I am surprised that the title deed in my custody now has no meaning. The deed were issued to us by Government officials and we wonder how years down the line they have been declared fraudulent,” Seret says.

The 60-year-old, who owns a five-acre parcel of land says if eviction occurs he will lose all that he invested.

Out of fear, some of the locals have provided Peter Ole Osono, chairperson of the Ol Jorai community with copies of title deeds. He has received over 900 copies.

“We are aggrieved and we will be going back to court to seek a second opinion. I have asked the people not to fear as the matter is being handled,” Seret says.

Paul Maina and Elijah Sikona, both human rights activists say the judgment by the court is a recipe for disaster.

“People are frustrated by the court orders, they are restless as they might be evicted any time. The order is a recipe for disaster,” Maina says.

Due diligence

He says lands officials are to be blamed for failing to carry out due diligence on the land. Ol Jorai Land Buying company claims to have acquired the land from ADC, after paying Sh10 million and got a receipt.

John Odhiambo, a former ADC worker and who testified in court says Solai Ruiyobei owned the land. Odhiambo dismissed the Sh10 million receipt.

He says the document was a cash sale receipt which one is issued for buying or selling goods and not land. 

He testified that issue of cash transactions stopped in October 1994 and such a receipt could not have been prepared in 1996 as claimed by Osono. 

The court was persuaded that the receipt was a forgery. “I am convinced that the said receipt is forged. I am so persuaded because as pointed out by the witness John Odhiambo, this cash sale receipt does not indicate what payment is being made for,” Justice Munyao said. 

Munyao said one would not expect ADC to receive such a huge amount of money in cash and not through a bank transfer. 

The court also noted that there was no evidence of where the Sh10 million came from or who may have contributed towards the same.

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Ol Jorai Land Buying CompanySolai Ruiyobei CompanyGovernment officials