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Standoff as residents resist takeover of hotel in Watamu

By Nehemiah Okwembah | Published Fri, January 12th 2018 at 00:00, Updated January 11th 2018 at 22:12 GMT +3
Temple Point Breach Hotel that is under ownership row. [Photo/Standard]

There was drama outside Temple Point Hotel in Watamu on Wednesday after employees and neighbours of the establishment barred an Italian and a Kenyan investor from taking over the premises.

The two – Steffano Ucelli and Isaac Rodrot – who have laid claim to the hotel, stormed the premises claiming that it belongs to them as per a High Court ruling of 2015 and a Court of Appeal judgement but the current owner, a German couple, could hear none of it.

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The two sides have battled over the ownership of the hotel for years with each side claiming to hold binding court orders.

Hundreds of residents blocked Rodrot and Ucelli, who were accompanied by dozens of police officers.

They said they would not allow any change of management, claiming that Hans Langer, a German, was the rightful owner of the resort hotel.

Langer himself claimed those laying claim to the hotel were "misusing State authorities", adding that Rodrot could not claim to be a shareholder in the property.

He claimed the court order Rodrot and Ucelli were relying on to take over the Sh1 billion hotel did not allow them to do so.

"The court has not given any specific orders," Langer said.

The angry residents, who appeared to support Langer, ganged up with employees and management to barricade the Temple Point's main gate in order to prevent Rodrot, Uccelli and police officers led by Malindi OCPD Matawa Muchangi from accessing it.

They claimed that the court order Rodrot and Ucelli were waving was about Salama Beach Hotel Ltd and not Temple Point Hotel.

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After a tense and angry five-hour standoff, the OCPD withdrew his officers saying "since the people have refused to move, there is need to return to the court for a clarification."

Trouble begun when Langer received information that their rivals were going to officially take over the hotel while accompanied by armed police officers.

All the staff, a section of community members and elders from Watamu armed themselves with rungus, stones and bows and arrows to keep guard at the entrance of the hotel.

They claimed Rodrot, whom they alleged was a former employee of the hotel for years, had not explained how he became a shareholder and co-owner of the property.

At some point, Mr Muchangi asked the operations manager Mumba Ngundi to order the workers out of the gate but he declined, saying the issue must be sorted out by lawyers of both parties.

Court order

Langer accused Ucelli and Rodrot of misinterpreting the court order and challenged them to hire qualified lawyers to help them understand it.

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Uccelli and Rodrot said they were still determined to take over the hotel, adding that the court orders were clear.

Ucelli and Rodrot had presented a letter laying claim to the hotel and indicating they had orders to take over the hotel.

Langer accused a local politician of being behind the current eight-year ownership dispute.


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