Kipkeino pleads for state help in battle to save his mega farm

Retired Kenyan track and field athlete Kipchoge Hezekiah Keino watching over as his 159 acre land subdivided by locals due to land tussles at Sarioyot, Uasin Gishu County on August 9, 2023. [Christopher Kipsang, Standard]

Legendary track athlete Kipchoge Keino is battling to save prime land located on the outskirts of Eldoret town following a protracted dispute.

On Tuesday and Wednesday, individuals claiming a section of the retired athlete’s 195-acre Kazi Mingi farm invaded the property and fenced off sections, thrusting him into a battle to save a property he has owned for half a century.

A shaken Kipkeino, 83, (his popular name) watched helplessly as angry youth invaded the expansive farm, which hosts the famous Kipchoge Keino High-Performance Training Centre. The camp was established in 2002 and identified by the International Olympic Committee as one of the training sites where stars prepare for global games.

The legend called for state protection as he seeks to secure the critical installations in his Kazi Mingi farm. Despite his advanced age, Kipchoge said he would battle for the property in court.

The gold medallist at the 1968 Mexico Olympic Games and winner in the 3000m steeplechase in 1972, said he bought the land in the 1970s.

“It is scary because everyone knows this is my property. I have all documents to prove ownership, including those showing payment details. All my neighbours know Kazi Mingi is the property of Kipchoge Keino,” a shocked Kipkeino said.

Accompanied by his sons Martin, a former athlete and Phil, he said he had been dragged to court by children of an individual who sold the land to him in 1972.

He recalled how he bought the property after selling several cows, and he (Kipchoge Keino) topped this amount with prize money he had won in races.

According to Kipkeino, he had completed purchase of the land and a survey as well as sub-division had been completed by 1976.

Court papers indicated that a Magistrate’s court in Eldoret had awarded the late Kipkorom Kemboi’s children Noah Cheruiyot and Selly Cherop 70 acres of the 195 acres on November 16, 2022.

Documents indicated Kipkeino had filed an appeal and sought orders suspending execution of the magistrate’s court ruling. The former National Olympic Committee of Kenya (NOC-K) president, described the invasion distressing and called for state protection.

Armed with court papers stopping subdivision of the property, pending hearing and determination of an appeal at the High Court, Kipkeino watched in disbelief as the defiant youth fenced off sections of his farm.

Operations at his residence, the training camp, and his dairy farm were ongoing as the invasion happened on one side.

“I bought this land using my own sweat. This is the asset that reminds me of my athletics career. I would run from this home to the plateau and back during my peak. It is depressing that the property that hosted the International Olympic Committee and World Athletics presidents is being targeted. I challenge whoever is claiming my property to produce ownership documents,” he said.

He added: “A dispute arose sometime in the 1990s and I acquired 20 acres of land for the complainant at that time and the issue was settled. It is shocking that they are targeting a property I acquired following the right procedure.”

Former International Olympic Committee President Jacques Rogge visited the elite training camp and orphanage located on the farm in May 2010, and four years later, the current IOC head Thomas Bach also toured the property.

In 2001, former IOC President Juan Antonio Samaranch toured the farm considered one of the region’s best athletics training centres.

Attempts to contact the rival camp for a response were futile, as they declined to comment on the dispute.