East Africa’s busiest airport is facing a huge challenge from two peasant sisters claiming more than 6,000 acres of the land that the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) sits on.
In documents seen by Sunday Standard, the Kenya Airports Authority (KAA) is fighting Litha Katumbi and Amina Mbula, daughters of a woman whose mysterious death four years ago will be a subject of an inquest at the Makadara Law Courts on Tuesday.
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The two sisters are laying claim to the 6,736.925 acres along Mombasa Road in Nairobi.
If entertained by National Land Commission (NLC)’s committee on resolution of historical land injustices, the matter will affect 58 other local and international companies situated in the area besided JKIA.
KAA has rejected the family’s claim to more than half the land JKIA sits on, saying the government had compulsorily acquired the 27 parcels measuring 2,694 hectares (6,736.925 acres) in 1968. The aviation authority is the registered owner of Land Reference Number 21919 contained in Grant Number IR 70118 which was issued on July 26, 1996 and which measures 4,674.60 hectares (11,679 acres).
On July 17, 2018, KAA Managing Director Johnny Andersen denied the claims in a letter to family lawyer, E W Kamuyu and Company advocates, who had demanded answers on November 17, 2017.
“The subject parcel forms part of the land within the confines and boundaries of the authorities parcel, LR no 21919 which the authority has erected the JKIA. By Gazette notices nos 1105 and 1106 of April 30, 1971, the government proceeded to compulsorily acquire, interalia, the subject parcels and all other parcels of land mentioned in that gazette notice,” Andersen writes.
In the Gazete notice number 1105 of April 30, 1971, the government invoked the Land Acquisition Act, 1968 and gave notice to the owners of its intention to acquire 27 parcels of land measuring 2694.77 hectares.
In the subsequent notice number 1106, the government invited the owners of the affected pieces of land to to appear in the board room of Lands office then located at Harambee Avenue for the hearing of claims for compensations.
According to Andersen, Beatrice Syokau Kathumba, the women’s mother, had filed petition 1 of 2012 against KAA claiming ownership which was rejected by the High Court on November 19, 2012.
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However, Litha and Amina say the suit had not been filed by their mother but by a decoy so that the court could be used to legitimise the hiving away of their land.
At that time, the sisters say their mother had gone missing and had reported her disappearance to the police. Interestingly, it was while the family was looking for her all over the country that a petition was filed by one Beatrice Syokau Gathumba on January 4, 2012 against KAA, the Commissioner for Lands and the Attorney General.
In the petition, Syokau says the original title of the land she was pursuing was issued in July 1, 1917, for a term of 999 years but was later acquired by Laura Ellen Woodley who employed Syokau’s husband Kathumba as her manager.
The petition was however dismissed by Justice Isaac Lenaola who ruled that the petitioner had not produced original documents to prove her case. In the course of the hearing, it emerged that Navadas Damodar bought the land in 1964 for Sh7,000.
Syokau had countered that her husband had bought the entire piece of land for 700 cows and goats from the estate of the white settler.
Litha and Amina shocked NLC’s committee last Thursday when they detailed how their family had lost the land through a complex web of fraud and deception.
The plot, according to documents presented to the NLC, took a nasty turn in 2010 when the matriarch, Beatrice Syokau Kathumba, was reportedly abducted from her home near Cabanas along Mombasa Road and held incommunicado.
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They finally traced her four years later after they were tipped that she was admitted to Kenyatta National Hospital (KNH) and was critically ill. She died on July 3, 2014.
After her death, the burial permit was allegedly given to the people accused of abducting and causing her death, triggering a row which has delayed her burial for four years.
Structures which once housed her big herd still dot her compound, where there are 54 semi permanent houses now being rented out by one of the groups entangled in the case.
The cause of her death is given as cardio respiratory arrest due to aspiration pneumonia. Several autopsies had to be conducted on the body after the family suspected that some pathologists had been compromised.
At one point, a ‘total stranger’ who the Kathumba’s say was not a kinsman, claimed he had been granted the power of attorney by the deceased.
In her pursuit for her land in 1997, Syokau submitted her title deed NA/A5/04/145 under registry map sheet 194 dated July 20, 1997 and thereafter sought approval for subdivision from the Landsministry.
She paid for these services on November 4, 2004 vide receipt number 923365.
She was however shocked to discover that some of the land had been registered to a stranger, Peter Ndeti.
The widow then reported the loss of her title deeds numbers for LR numbers, 7075/37149/9,463, 4513, 4512, 324, 2903 and 212, vide OB number 37/10/11/016.
When the matter was investigated by the CID, Alex Ndambu, an officer based in Embakasi, wrote to the Commissioner of Lands showing that Syokau was tricked by some officers at the Ministry of Lands who issued her with a fake title deed.
His letter stated: “I have found out that this land belongs to Beatrice Syokau Kathemba. Most of the land has been grabbed and I find it better the remaining land be served in her name of and title deed issued respectively.”
A District Officer in Embakasi, MN Hassan, also made similar conclusion in a letter to the Ministry of Lands on April 13, 2007 stating that Syokau was the legitimate owner of the land.
Acting on behalf of the Lands commissioner, SG Gikonyo informed DC Embakasi that his office was trying to assist Syokau and asked the provincial administration to prevent further encroachment.
During Thursday’s hearing, the family tabled documents to show that the Commissioner for Lands and City Council of Nairobi had validated their mother’s ownership of the land and had even granted her approval to subdivide it.
At the same time, the NLC on June 12,2015 indicated that Syokau had been pursuing compensation for LR no. 7075/3 hich was taken by KAA.
The letter, signed by ZM Ndege, reads in part: “The acquisition was done without consideration of the existence of Beatrice Syokau Kathumba who has been seeking for compensation but without success.”
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Ndege observed that although the land was taken for the extension of Nairobi Airport, Syokau was left on the land without any interference from KAA and her home is surrounded by built up area of go-downs on the sides.
He recommended that the family be compensated or given alternative land for settlement.
Long before the controversial petition was filed against KAA, EO Otwori had on March 18, 2010 ( acting on behalf the Lands commissioner),written to HM Mudeizi and Company Advocates who was acting for Syokau: “I wish to inform you that from our records, the above land ( LR.NO.7075/3-Nairobi) was allocated to Beatrice Syokau Kathumba”