State defies court order, deploys police to disputed Ngongeri land in Njoro

A flock of sheep grazes on the controversial Ngongeri land in Njoro. [Joseph Kipsang, Standard]

The government has defied a court order and deployed police officers to man a disputed 2,800-acre land in Njoro.

The land in question is being claimed by 300 families who have been farming there for decades.

Two courts ordered the Nakuru county government, Egerton University and the Attorney General to stop interfering with the land.

However, on Saturday, The Standard found police officers manning the disputed land, denying residents access.

They were led by a senior officer who refused to speak to the media but insisted that the police would not leave the land.

The residents who demanded that the officers leave and tractors stop cultivating the land were advised not to cause chaos after more than 15 armed police officers surrounded them.

“I am not removing my officers from here, if you have a court order to continue utilising the land, take it to the police station,” said the senior police officer.

The court orders were served to Njoro Police Station and the local administration.

A resident, Kipkoech Langat alleged that he was attacked by the officers while passing on the land.

“Some were in uniform while others were not. They tied me and assaulted me. Police have refused to record my statement,” he claimed.

Despite the heavy presence of the armed officers, Njoro sub-county Police Commander Paul Wambugu denied that he had deployed officers to man the land.

Speaking on the phone, Wambugu said he was not aware of any land disputes that had left one person injured.

“I am not aware of any land disputes and I did not send any officers to any land in Njoro. They are not acting under my instructions,” he said.

The police boss denied receiving reports that an officer had assaulted a resident and insisted that his station cannot refuse to record statements.

“Unless there is a new development that requires police to be sent to the said land, I am not aware because I am also away on official duties,” he said.

The first court order was issued on December 20, 2023, by Environment and Land Court Judge Anthony Ombwayo.

Ombwayo stopped the government from interfering with the land until a petition filed by Ezekiel Kesendany, a civil rights activist, on behalf of the community, was heard and determined.

“The respondents are stopped from alienating and transferring the land until a petition by Kesendany against Egerton University was heard and determined,” the judge ruled.

The court heard that Nakuru County wanted to build a Sh500 million County Aggregation and Industrial Park on the land. 

Kesendany sued the county government, Egerton University, the National Land Commission, the Chief Land Registrar, the County Land Registrar, the Surveyor and the AG. 

Kesendany submitted that Governor  Susan Kihika's administration's move was unconstitutional, unlawful and therefore null and void for lack of public participation.

The second court order was issued against Egerton University’s Prof Robert Gisemba to stop interference on the land. Gisemba claimed the land on behalf of the university.

On March 15, 2024, Justice Lynette Omollo ruled in favour of the families who are members of Mosem Enterprises.

“The defendant (Gisemba) is restrained from trespassing or encroaching on the land, pending the hearing and determination of the case,” ruled Omollo.

The court order was served to Njoro Police Station and stamped as received.