Big setback for Mau Mau veterans in land petition

Mau Mau veterans follow proceedings at the Environment and Land Court in Meru.  [Phares Mutembei, Standard]

Hundreds of Mau Mau war veterans and their descendants suffered a setback as the Environment and Land Court in Meru struck out their petition where they were claiming ownership of over 500,000 acres.

The Meru Cultural Centre and others are laying claim to 598,929 acres in Buuri Sub-County currently occupied by a large-scale commercial farm, arguing they were driven out of the land by people aided by the colonial government.

They claim they lost possession of their parcels of land, subjected to brutality and there was a violation of their basic rights and freedom on occupation, exploitation and possession of their land.

Hundreds of Mau Mau remnants filled the courtroom and its environs hoping Justice Charles Yano would rule in their favour.

Justice Yano, while acknowledging that the court had jurisdiction over the matter, dismissed it after he found it defective on the basis that the allegations contained in the petition were not substantiated.

The respondents include management of the large farms, the Agricultural Finance Corporation, the National Land Commission, the Settlement Funds Trustee, and the Attorney-General.

Robert Kinyua and Edward Maina, the second and 19th petitioner respectively, are members of the Meru Cultural Centre which symbolises and executes the tribal mandate and authority of the Meru Tribe Community.

They argued that the Meru Tribal Community was the “undebatable and indefeasible owners and occupants over the suit properties.

They claimed the suit properties were registered in favour of the respondents in 1929 at the behest of the colonial government after the Meru were subjected to cruelty.

Among other orders they sought were for the respondents to be prosecuted for the cruelty against the Meru and to be compensated.

But Justice Yano ruled that the petitioners had not stated how the respondents violated the stated articles.

He said the petition was based on “generalised allegations” that the respondents had participated in forceful displacement of the petitioners from their land.

“The petitioners have not provided particulars of the allegations of organised cruel and forcible detainment and neither have they disclosed the manner in which their constitutional rights have been violated in this regard,” Yano said.

He said there were no particulars presented of the properties mentioned in the petition and to whom they belonged to, which of the petitioners were dispossessed, by whom and in what manner.

Mr Kinyua, who is chairman of Meru Cultural Centre, and Mr Maina, said they were happy with how the ruling had turned out “because the judge has said the court has jurisdiction of the case”.

“We are going back to the drawing board to do fresh papers so that we can regain the land taken from us,” Kinyua said.

He said after they were displaced, the present occupiers of the land had farmed on it from 1919 and continued to do so “yet our people are squatters and live in squalor in slums and rental houses”.

Nkuene MCA Martin Makasi said it was time to relook the term of the various leases held by the large-scale farmers, saying Mau Mau war heroes and their families were landless.