Squatters, landowners await supreme ruling on 25,000-acre feud

Sirikwa Squatters group with police officers during subdivision of the disputed 24,000 acres of land perceived to belong to the late Mark Too at Eldoret International Airport in Uasin Gishu County on May 26, 2022. [Christopher Kipsang, Standard]

Anxiety is building up ahead of a Supreme Court ruling in the battle of a 25,000-acre disputed land pitting 1,000 squatters and several landowners living in the multimillion property in Kapseret, Uasin Gishu County.

The Supreme Court is expected to give its verdict before the end of this month on the land claimed by former MP Mark Too's family and Sirikwa squatters group.

From defiance by squatters and arguments between lawyers representing the squatters and the police, the ownership row has been dominated by high-octane episodes.

The High Court had ruled in favour of the squatters in 2017, but after appealing, families living in the disputed land lost again at the Court of Appeal last November.

They then moved to the apex court to challenge the legality of the ruling.

Tens of squatters who had occupied the land after the Court of Appeal victory were evicted at night on November 25, 2022, by more than 300 police officers from Uasin Gishu and Nakuru.

There were questions after a video of a prominent politician from Uasin Gishu planting maize on the disputed farm made rounds on social media earlier this month.

On Thursday, the squatters gave security chiefs and the police seven days to compensate them over valuables worth Sh4 million or face a lawsuit.

Through their lawyer William Arusei, the squatters wrote to Interior Cabinet Secretary Kithure Kindiki, the then Rift Valley Police Commander Tom Odero, former Uasin Gishu police chief Ayub Gitonga and county commissioner Eddyson Nyale and a number of OCSs, complaining that the police had violated their rights during the night evictions.

The squatters had written another letter to the police in December, and their advocate said the Thursday demand was a reminder.

In the protest letter, the squatters told Prof Kindiki that more than 300 police officers seized a tractor, trailer, six motorcycles, 12 cows, 300 iron sheets, two bicycles and two power saws, among other properties, during the 10pm eviction on November 25.

According to the reminder, the police said the seized properties have been in police custody since November. The squatters asked the Interior CS to probe the then Rift Valley Police Commander, whom they say oversaw the operation to remove the squatters out of sections of the 25,000-acre land in Kapseret.

"...unless there is redress or the settlement of clients' grievances within the next seven days, our clients will explore other steps available in law including but not limited to the filing of the appropriate lawsuit at the appropriate legal forum...," the squatters said through their lawyer.

They said the failure of the security apparatus to release the seized properties was an act of impunity. A win by the squatters in the Supreme Court battle would mean hundreds of individuals who acquired plots from prominent personalities currently occupying sections of the land may be forced to move out.