Sirikwa group storms property to 'enjoy the fruits of judgment'

Sirikwa squatters enter into the home premises of former Kanu nominated MP the late Mark Too in Kapseret Constituency Uasin Gishu County on November 19, 2022. [Peter Ochieng, Standard]

Squatters of the former Lonhro conglomerate's unit EATEC on Saturday stormed sections of a 25,000-acre land in Uasin Gishu after the Court of Appeal in Kisumu ruled in their favour, following 10 years of battles in and out of court.

Members of Sirikwa Squatters spent the better part of the day at the home of the late politician Mark Too, who the court said swindled the land through fraud after the East Africa Tanning and Extract Company (EATEC) -- which had leased it -- exited the country.

The 25,000 acres of land spread across two constituencies of Uasin Gishu County have been at the centre of a tussle pitting Too's family and a group of about 1,000 people registered as Sirikwa Squatters, since 2012. The Mark Too land was registered as property of Fanikiwa Ltd.

A big portion of the disputed land has been lying idle after the Court of Appeal in Eldoret directed, five months ago, that the status quo be maintained.

Yesterday, a few hours after the judgment was rendered, the squatters accompanied by their lawyers William Arusei and Juliah Kiget entered the land, in what the legal team described as “enjoyment of the fruits of the judgment.”

A contingent of anti-riot police officers led by Uasin Gishu Deputy County Commander Zacchaeus Ng'eno kept vigil.

The property was part of 32,000 acres of land comprising the Eldoret International Airport and Moi University, among several other public utilities.

As the squatters were celebrating the judgment, the former politician’s kin were considering taking the battle to the Supreme Court.

The Friday ruling means that several title deeds of people who acquired property in the land now belonging to the squatters remain revoked.

It emerged yesterday that high-ranking political figures, including a Cabinet minister and a prominent opposition politician, are among casualties of the court verdict.

At some point yesterday, the squatters’ lawyer William Arusei engaged in a bitter argument with Mr Ng'eno, the Deputy County Commander, after the advocate claimed that the armed police officers had been deployed to intimidate the squatters.

“Why should someone call the police after losing twice in court? Why can’t the litigant just move to the next court? The squatters have taken over the land and no amount of intimidation will cow them,” said the lawyer.

But the police boss said: “The family (Mark Too’s) still has a right to appeal and we are here to protect their property because that is our work. We suspect that the squatters are riotous and had some intention to vandalise property.”

Sirikwa Squatters chairman Benjamin Rono said the squatters were peaceful and had no intention of destroying any property.

“Our intention was to take over our land because we have won the case. We are asking anyone occupying it to move out without using the police to intimidate the rightful owners".