At least 20,000 families in Nairobi’s Lang’ata area risk losing their homes after the State announced plans to seize land it says was grabbed from Ngong Forest.
The homeowners are apprehensive after Environment Cabinet Secretary Keriako Tobiko said the government had begun repossessing all land illegally acquired by private developers.
Although the residents insist they acquired the property legally, their fear was fueled by the arrival of Kenya Forest Service (KFS) rangers who said the land belongs to the agency.
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Those staring at demolition include residents of Sun Valley Estate Phase I, Sun Valley Phase II, Sun Valley Phase III, KMA Lang’ata estate, Lang’ata Place, Lang’ata View Apartments, Royal Park, Forest View, Shalom estate, and St Mary’s Apartment.
On Tuesday, Nairobi Senator Johnson Sakaja sought a statement from the Standing Committee on Land and Natural Resources on the fate of the residents.
“The CS is on record threatening these residents and making such pronouncements that he is going to release animals into those estates. The committee should address fear that KFS will fence off these estates in spite of a gazette notice of 1998,” Sakaja said.
Sakaja’s sentiments were echoed by Kericho Senator Aaron Cheruiyot and his Elgeyo-Marakwet counterpart Kipchumba Murkomen, who said those targeted were “humble civil servants who took loans to invest while following due process, yet the State wants to take down their homes.”
A map released by Tobiko last week showed that public institutions such as the National Police Service Dog Unit and Lang’ata Women’s Prison, as well as St Mary’s Mission Hospital, occupy what was initially part of the forest land.
“On Tuesday, KFS officers, who were armed, arrived in two pickup trucks and drove around the estate. While leaving, they told our security officers at the gate that the land belongs to the government,” a Sun Valley Phase II resident, who only identified himself as Charles told The Standard.
The residents produced documents to show the land was legally de-gazetted 23 years ago before it was allocated to a firm that subdivided it and sold them as plots.
The affected residents of the three Sun Valley estates on Tuesday petitioned a law firm to take up the matter with Tobiko’s office.
“This (demolition threat) has been followed by aerial and physical surveillance by the KFS team, with the latter accompanied by a verbal warning to the security guards to fence off the gate to the estate,” reads a letter to the lawyers.
It adds: “As the law firm that initially dealt with the excision and subsequent issuance of title deeds to the various owners, it is our belief that you are in possession of the requisite institutional memory pertaining the matter. We, therefore, instruct the firm to take all necessary steps to safeguard our interests.”
According to documents provided, the process of excising part of the land where the Lang’ata residential estates stand began in 1997 when Environment and Natural Resources Minister Henry Kosgey published a notice to set aside 53.68ha (about 130 acres) on December 22. The land was indicated as L.R. No. 23256.
On March 23, 1998, Kosgey’s successor Francis Lotodo de-gazetted the alteration of Ngong Forest land to give it legal status.
Part of the land was sold to a firm associated with a former MP, who subdivided and sold it to various individuals, including senior civil servants.
Yesterday we were unable to get the former MP to comment as he did not pick calls or respond to text messages.
When The Standard visited Sun Valley II, a Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) water tank was exiting the gate.
“There are many KDF officers who have homes here. This truck always delivers water to their homes... not just KDF but basically all sectors of the civil service,” a guard said.
While speaking last Friday at the Miotoni block of Ngong Forest when he received infrastructural support for the Green Zones II project, Tobiko said they would reclaim more than 6,000 acres that had been grabbed.
“Except the areas that were lawfully de-gazetted, all the other parcels of this forest, whether people have titles or not, whether they have built structures for business or residential houses, will be reclaimed,” he warned.