Church loses land after nine-year fight with EPZ

Presbyterian Church of East Africa (PCEA) in Kitengela, Kajiado. PCEA has been given 60 days to vacate the property. [Peterson Githaiga, Standard]

A court has ruled that a church, primary school, and offices on land owned by the Presbyterian Church of East Africa (PCEA) be demolished.

In a virtual case ruling between the Export Processing Zone Authority (EPZA) and PCEA Foundation, Kajiado High Court Judge Maxwell Gicheru on Thursday ruled that the two-acre piece of land where the multi-million shilling complex stands was acquired illegally.

“The land in question was acquired illegally and fraudulently. I therefore rule that the occupants vacate the place within 60 days,” read part of the ruling.

He said since September 1991, no court or land tribunal has ever nullified that the government acquired the land legally.

According to the court documents, the church is said to have acquired the land in 2002.

Judge Gicheru ruled that the original owner of the land was dully compensated for the land and therefore the land belonged to EPZA.

However, the church has condemned the judgment and vowed to move to the court of appeal to seek redress.

Tension remained high at the church, as worshipers and pupils followed the proceedings on giant screens placed inside the church.

‘’Today is a dark day for all our members and the entire church. Our documents are all in order, we are surprised by this judgment. We will therefore seek other alternative ways to challenge the decision,’’ said Elder Peter Mwangi, church chairman.

Rev Ezekiel Murage, in charge of Kitengela Parish, appealed to the worshipers to stay calm as the church management tried to appeal the court ruling.

Stay calm

‘’I am appealing to all our members not to panic, we are sure and truthfully that we used the legal ways to acquire this piece of land, therefore let’s continue fighting for justice to be done,’’ he said.

Rev Ezekiel Murage. He appealed to the worshipers to stay calm as the church management tried to appeal the court ruling. [Peterson Githaiga, Standard]

In a statement released to the worshipers through their lawyer Njogu Muigai, the church has fought for the land for almost nine years.

‘’We took this case on May 20, 2014, and for the last nine years, we fought many applications and eventually secured a peaceful moment for worship for the 2,000 members of PCEA Kitengela and the environs. That not forgetting the over 600 pupils who attend Kitengela Township Primary school’’ said Mr Mungai.

The EPZA was fighting for a small fraction of the area around the tank.

But in the wisdom of the court, a nullity declaration of the entire piece of land was made, consequently affecting the entire title. 

“Today was presumably a rollercoaster for us after nine-year toil on the case. A five-minute summary judgment destroyed the hope of more than 5,000 people who survive and depend on the facility either as a sanctuary, a youth centre, the parents to the over 600 pupils, and thousands of Endeni sacco members. It is heartbreaking as much as it is painful,’’ said Mungai.

‘’As a member of the church we used millions of resources to build the sanctuary and the school. Half a billion contributed by thousands of ardent churchgoers, humble contributions from the downtrodden, and numerous others who tithed hard to meet religious goals,’’ said the lawyer.

He said it is evident that their evidence and credible legal thought were ignored or even magically tilted by thought or other forces.

He noted that an appeal will most likely overturn the judgment.

‘’It is a sad day for us, most of you toiled to do the paperwork. A gallant soldier lives to fight another clear day’’ said the lawyer.